What To Know About Citizen's Arrests

Almost everyone has heard of citizen's arrests, but do they still exist? In fact, private citizens still have the right to make an arrest, but there are limited conditions under which it can happen. Citizen's arrests may not have to follow as many rules that constitutionally protect other citizens against unfair treatment by law enforcement, but the conditions of a citizen's arrest are far more narrow in scope. If you end up being detained by another person against your will, that person could be held liable in civil court for wrongdoing. Read on to learn more.

Reason to Suspect a Crime

No citizen is allowed to attempt an arrest based on mere dislike or some other random reason. For example, you may have heard some neighborhood gossip about a homeowner that is selling drugs in her spare time. This is not an occasion for making a citizen's arrest, particularly when you might have gone through proper law enforcement channels with your suspicions. There must be clear evidence that a crime has been committed for a citizen's arrest to occur.

Law and the Layman

Unfortunately, most private citizens have very little actual knowledge of the law. What might appear to be a criminal act to laymen may not be a crime at all. To make matters more complicated, the crime must rise up to the level of a felony for a citizen's arrest to be valid. The vast majorities of crimes committed are not felonies. Only very serious crimes are felonies, and often the dividing line between a felony and a misdemeanor is very fine. Murder, rape, robbery, and arson are a few felonies. It might be wiser to contact law enforcement to make an arrest when you are dealing with potential felonies.

Detaining the Perpetrator

It makes little sense to attempt to arrest a citizen if you have no way of restraining them. People who use excessive force to detain someone suspected of committing a crime can be charged with a crime themselves. While it may not be necessary to read a suspect their rights during a citizen's arrest, the use of deadly force is never permitted. All citizens have the right to protect themselves from harm using any self-defense measure at hand, but using force during a citizen's arrest might get you in more trouble and you could even put yourself in danger.

Citizens overeager to prevent crimes or identify a perpetrator can often end up causing confusion and even harm to innocent civilians. If you have been the victim of an unwarranted citizen's arrest, you might be entitled to personal injury damages. Speak to an experienced injury lawyer right away.