What is a Citizen’s Arrest?
Generally, it is expected that only sworn police officers or law enforcement officers are allowed to make arrests. However, there are certain circumstances that allow citizens without any badge to make arrests and that ultimately is what is known as a citizen’s arrest. To define a citizen’s arrest simply, it is an arrest made by a person who not a duly sworn officer when a person commits an offense such as an assault, criminal damage, or theft.
Factors to consider during a Citizen’s Arrest
Before making a citizen’s arrest, it is important that it is not based on the suspicion that a person has committed an offense or is committing one. Some of the factors to be considered before making a citizen’s arrest include:
- Do you know where they live?
- Will you be risking your personal safety?
- Is the person known to the store or is he a regular customer?
- Can you provide a positive identification for the person?
If the answer is affirmative for any of the questions, then it would be best not to make an arrest but to contact the police.
Guidelines Governing a Citizen’s Arrest
- A person may be placed on citizen’s arrest only if you believe on reasonable grounds that such a person is in the course of committing an offense or has committed an offense.
- Having reasonable grounds means that you have direct evidence that proves that such a person has committed the said offense. For example, you can be said to have seasonal grounds to make a citizen’s arrest when you see a customer take an item from one of the shelves in your store, hides it in their pocket or anywhere else, and walks out of your store without paying. This indicates that such a person does not want to pay for the item and is stealing it and it can be termed a reasonable ground.
- When you only have an indirect evidence that someone has committed an offense, it is only suspicion. This does not warrant a citizen’s arrest.
- After making a citizen’s arrest, the person is under no obligation to provide you with his name or his home address.
- The arrested person is not obligated to provide an answer or response to any questions you might ask. However, any answers provided by the detained person may be put down in writing and may be used against such a person in the court.
Use of Force During a Citizen’s Arrest
It is important as a general rule that force used in detaining a person be proportionate and reasonable. Certain circumstances, however, may justify the use of force when making an arrest, such as when you want to prevent the person from running away or escaping. It can also be necessary in the case of self-defense.
Generally, before making a citizen’s arrest, remember the following points:
- Do nothing when in doubt.
- Train your staff.
- Make use of security systems that can effectively deter potential thieves.
- Use the appropriate force.
Most Important Thing to Consider Before Making a Citizen’s Arrest
While Federal Laws outline a specfic code of legal enforcement, each State also has specific criminal law codes. The best thing to do before considering a Citizen’s Arrest is to consult with a liscensed, Criminal Defense Attorney near you.