How Does One Conduct a Citizen’s Arrest?

by tylercook on September 14, 2013

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In the United States and many other countries, citizens are allowed to stop perpetrators who are in the middle of committing serious crimes and detain them until authorities arrive. This is known as a citizen’s arrest, and while it can be dangerous for obvious reasons, there may come a time when knowing how to make such an arrest will come in handy. Here are the steps and requirements for being able to make a citizen’s arrest.

Witness a Crime

This sounds like it should be obvious, but many well-intentioned citizen’s have wrongly accused people of committing serious crimes and attempted to stop them. Ironically, they end up committing crimes themselves by detaining innocent people or doing something far worse. If a citizen’s arrest is to be made, you must witness a serious crime being committed and have no doubt about what you are seeing. If you don’t witness the crime itself, you must have enough evidence to prove beyond a reasonable doubt that a crime was committed. This can include dropping drugs or weapons during a pursuit. If you aren’t absolutely sure that a crime is being committed or has just been committed, it’s best not to act.

Make Your Intentions Clear

When you are making a citizen’s arrest, you should always make this fact as clear as possible. Tell the would-be criminal that you are making a citizen’s arrest and why they are being arrested. You must be able to provide probable cause before making an arrest.

Detain the Suspect

Making an arrest will most likely involve detaining the suspect. Make sure to do this while using as little force as possible since it is very easy to use excessive force and end up getting in trouble with the law yourself. The amount of force you use should be a reasonable response to the behavior of the suspect. For example, a suspect who attempts to flee can be pulled down to the ground, but hitting said suspect once they’ve been taken down is almost always unnecessary and can get you in trouble. Lethal force is never acceptable unless you are acting in self-defense.

Contact the Authorities

This is probably the most important part of making a citizen’s arrest. Once you have the suspect detained, call the police immediately. Do not attempt to transport the suspect yourself. Wait where you are until the police arrive.

Give a Detailed Account of What You Saw

The biggest requirement of being able to make a citizen’s arrest is that you have probable cause to detain a suspect. You should be able to accurately describe the crime that you witnessed or be able to produce incriminating evidence when they police show up. If you cannot prove that you had probable cause for making a citizen’s arrest, you could be in big trouble with the police.

Making a citizen’s arrest is a difficult prospect, and you should never take it lightly. Being able to stop a crime in progress and bring a criminal to justice is admirable, and lots of people fantasize about being heroes, but reality rarely measures up to fantasy. The truth is that there is a lot that can go wrong during a citizen’s arrest, and in the end it is always better to contact the police instead of taking action yourself.’s-arrest/


Henry Boulder is a freelance writer who focuses on legal topics such as Auto Accidents, Criminal Law, Patent Law, European Law, International Business and other topics as well.




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