There have been several good responses to the question raised. As for myself, I would not get involved unless someone’s life was in danger. If it was a shouting match I would do nothing. If it progressed and someone pulled out a Samurai sword and started chopping off arms, now that’s a different story. I know I could not stand by and watch while someone else was being killed or severely injured. There is a post on here about citizens helping out an LEO if he were to suddenly find himself out gunned or being attacked by BG’s. I think most of the ones that responded said they would help out if asked. Why not help your fellow citizen? Do you actually arrest them and hold for the police? Draw your gun and hope for the best? This could really put someone in a pickle and possibly shot by the responding police. Some interesting information I found at Constitution Society Home Page
. Don’t know how it would play out with the politically correct media but this was published by the Citizens’ Justice Program in 1994. There is more information at What is a Citizens Arrest? Criminal Attorney News
In the most crime ridden spot in the country, our nation's capitol, District of Columbia Law 23- 582(b) reads as follows:
(b) A private person may arrest another -
who he has probable cause to believe is committing in his presence -
(A) a felony, or (B) an offense enumerated in section 23-581 (a)(2); or
(2) in aid of a law enforcement officer or special policeman, or other person authorized by law to make an arrest.
(c) Any person making an arrest pursuant to this section shall deliver the person arrested to a law enforcement officer without unreasonable delay. (July 29, 1970, 84 Stat. 630, Pub. L. 91-358, Title II, § 210(a); 1973 Ed., § 23-582; Apr. 30, 1988, D.C. Law 7-104, § 7(e), 35 DCR 147.)
In Tennessee, it has been held that a private citizen has the right to arrest when a felony has been committed and he has reasonable cause to believe that the person arrested committed it. Reasonable grounds will justify the arrest, whether the facts turn out to be sufficient or not. (See Wilson v. State, 79 Tenn. 310 (1833).
Contrast this to Massachusetts law, which while permitting a private person to arrest for a felony, permits those acquitted of the felony charge to sue the arresting person for false arrest or false imprisonment. (See Commonwealth v. Harris, 11 Mass. App. 165 (1981))
Kentucky law holds that a person witnessing a felony must take affirmative steps to prevent it, if possible. (See Gill v. Commonwealth, 235 KY 351 (1930.)
Kentucky citizens are permitted to kill fleeing felons while making a citizen's arrest (Kentucky Criminal Code § 37; S 43, §44.)
Utah law permits citizen's arrest, but explicitly prohibits deadly force. (See Chapter 76-2-403.)
Legal Requirements for Making a Citizens Arrest
The right to making a citizens arrest goes back to our roots in English common law. Historically, before the modern infrastructure of police departments, citizen’s arrests were an important part of community law enforcement. Today, citizens arrests are still legal in every state, although state laws pertaining to citizens arrests are not uniform. In general, all states permit citizens arrests if a criminal felony (defined by the government as a serious crime, usually punishable by at least one year in prison) is witnessed by the citizen carrying out the arrest, or if a citizen is asked to help apprehend a suspect by the police. Variations of state law arise in cases of misdemeanors, breaches of the peace, and felonies not witnessed by the arresting party.
For example, California Penal Code mandates:
A private person may arrest another: 1. For a public offense committed or attempted in his presence. 2. When the person arrested has committed a felony, although not in his presence. 3. When a felony has been in fact committed, and he has reasonable cause for believing the person arrested to have committed it. (C.P.C. 837).
In contrast, New York State Consolidated Laws hold that:
Any person may arrest another person (a) for a felony when the latter has in fact committed such felony, and (b) for any offense when the latter has in fact committed such offense in his presence. (N.Y.C.L. 140.30).
Unlike the California statute, which only permits citizens arrests in cases of felony, New York law extends the possibility for making a citizens arrest to any offense committed in [ones] presence. Additionally, in cases where the citizen has not necessarily witnessed the crime being committed, California law allows citizens arrests when a citizen has reasonable cause for believing the person arrested to have committed [a felony], whereas New York law applies only to situations in which person has in fact committed a felony. Distinctions such as these are important unwarranted citizens arrests can result in repercussions (such as law suits) for well-meaning citizens who attempt to make arrests without understanding local laws. It is important to be familiar with the laws in your particular state should you want to carry out a citizens arrest, or should a citizen try to unlawfully detain you.
Anatomy of a Citizens Arrest
Once a person has committed an offense meriting a citizens arrest (under the applicable state law), the arresting party must follow certain guidelines to detain and deliver to authorities the suspect in question. Acceptable guidelines for carrying out a citizens arrest also vary by state. In general, the arresting party must notify the suspect as to why he or she is being arrested, and may enter the building or private residence where the suspect is residing, using a reasonable amount of force to apprehend the suspect. In California, for example, To make an arrest, a private person, if the offense is a felony may break open the door or window of the house in which the person to be arrested is, or in which they have reasonable grounds for believing the person to be, after having demanded admittance and explained the purpose for which admittance is desired. (C.P.C., 844). In New York, A person may arrest another person for an offense at any hour of any day or night. 2. Such person must inform the person whom he is arresting of the reason for such arrest unless he encounters physical resistance, flight or other factors rendering such procedure impractical. 3. In order to effect such an arrest, such person may use such physical force as is justifiable pursuant to subdivision four of section 35.30 of the penal law. (N.Y.C.L. 140.35).
Once the suspect has been taken into custody (by the citizen), it is the citizens responsibility to deliver the suspect to the proper authorities in a timely fashion. In California, A private person who has arrested another for the commission of a public offense must, without unnecessary delay, take the person arrested before a magistrate, or deliver him or her to a peace officer. (C.P.C. 847). In New York, a citizen must also act without unnecessary delay to deliver a suspect to an officer of the law. (N.Y.C.L. 140).
Dangers of Making an Erroneous Citizens Arrest
Making a citizen’s arrest maliciously or with insufficient evidence of wrongdoing by the arrested individual can lead to civil or criminal penalties. Additionally, it is in violation of a suspects rights for a citizen making an arrest to use unnecessary force, to intentionally harm the suspect, to hold the suspect in unsafe conditions, or to delay in turning the suspect over to authorities. A citizen making an arrest is acting in the place of an officer of the law, and as such, is required to uphold the same rights and civil liberties as an officer of the law must uphold.
A citizen who violates a suspects rights, or who violates the applicable state law in detaining the suspect, (for example, arresting a suspect for a misdemeanor when the state statute requires a felony for a citizens arrest), risks being sued or even charged with a crime. Additionally, if it is found that the arresting party did not meet the pertinent state requirements for a citizens arrest, any contraband found on the suspect will have been found illegally, and charges may be dropped entirely.
If you feel that you have been unfairly arrested by a citizen, or if you have been charged with illegally detaining a suspect during an illegitimate citizens arrest, it is important to seek the counsel of an experienced attorney. A good attorney will demonstrate familiarity with state laws, and as such will help you to ensure the best possible outcome of your case.