How to Make a Citizen’s Arrest

by Brett & Kate McKay on December 6, 2011 · 119 comments

in Civic Skills, Manly Skills

I think we’ve all thought about it at one time or another. What would you do if you saw someone commit a crime? Would you call the police and let them handle it or would you try to be a hero, chase down that purse snatcher, and make a citizen’s arrest? If you’re like me, you’ve probably dreamt about choosing the latter option. Imagine how badass you’d feel after capturing some no good hooligans and tying them up for delivery to local authorities. You’d be the leading story on the 10 o’clock news, the mayor would present you a key to the city, and women would swoon when they saw you in the self-checkout lane at the grocery store.

But before you deputize yourself neighborhood sheriff, there are a few things you need to know about making a citizen’s arrest. If done properly, you can indeed become the local hero. If done improperly, you can be at the receiving end of an expensive lawsuit or even criminal charges.

Or you could just end up looking like a Gomer Pyle:

Unfortunately, the reality of making a citizen’s arrest is a lot more complicated and a lot less romantic than you probably thought.

But it’s still worth learning about. So let’s get started.

(Note: A few things. Because I’m an American and the majority of our readers are American, I’ll be focusing on citizen’s arrest law in the U.S. Also, while I went to law school, I’m not a lawyer. It should go without saying, but this article shouldn’t be taken as legal advice. It’s strictly for information and entertainment.)

When Can You Make a Citizen’s Arrest?

The power to perform citizens’ arrests dates back to medieval England. To help keep the peace, sheriffs encouraged villagers in their jurisdiction to arrest criminals and hold them in custody until a sheriff with proper authority could arrive and hand down the punishment. The tradition of the citizen’s arrest carried over into English common law, and because the American legal system is based on English common law, we inherited the practice.

In the early part of America’s history, common law governed the power to make citizens’ arrests. Today, that power is governed by state statute. Every state in the U.S., except for a few states like North Carolina and Washington, have statutes granting private citizens the power to make arrests.

While most states allow for citizens’ arrests, every state has different laws governing when a private citizen can make an arrest.

Citizen’s arrest for felonies.  Most states only allow you to make a citizen’s arrest if someone commits a felony in your presence. You can also arrest someone even if you didn’t see them commit the crime as long as you reasonably believe a person has committed a felony. Oh, and the person you’re putting under arrest needs to actually have committed the felony. If you mistakenly thought you saw the person you arrested commit a felony, but he actually didn’t do it, you could be in trouble. More on that later.

So the commission of a felony is required in most states before you can place a person under citizen’s arrest. Okay, what sort of crimes constitute felonies? Well, it depends on your state. Generally, serious offenses like murder, rape, and armed robbery are considered felonies. Crimes like theft, arson, and battery could be considered felonies if certain conditions are met. For example, theft in Oklahoma becomes a felony if the value of the item(s) stolen is more than $500.

Citizen’s arrest for misdemeanors. Some states allow private citizens to make arrests for small misdemeanor crimes. Usually in jurisdictions that allow for misdemeanor citizen’s arrest, you have to actually see the person commit the misdemeanor and you have to place the offender under arrest immediately. Also, the misdemeanor must constitute a “breach of the peace.”

What’s a breach of the peace? Well, it depends.

Because the definition of a breach of the peace is different in every state, we’ll keep it general. Typically, things like brawling and fighting in public, public intoxication that disrupts order, and prostitution are considered breaches of the peace. In Oklahoma, even using language that would incite a reasonable person to violence could be a breach of the peace.

Check your state’s statutes to determine when you can make a citizen’s arrest. Most states publish their statutes online.

How Do You Make a Citizen’s Arrest?

You’ve seen a person commit a felony and you’ve decided to make a citizen’s arrest. What do you have to do? Do have to say anything special?

In most states, to make a citizen’s arrest, you just need to sufficiently convey, through words or action, that you intend to put the person under arrest. So a simple, “Hey, knucklehead, I’m placing you under citizen’s arrest until the cops get here,” will do.

After you’ve conveyed your intent to arrest somebody, you may use force that is reasonable under the circumstances to restrain and confine the arrestee. We’ll talk a bit more about what constitutes reasonable force below.

You don’t have to read the crook his rights. That’s the police’s job.

As soon as you detain a person, call the police so you can give them custody of the bad guy. While the bad guy is in your custody, he’s your responsibility. Make sure you keep him in a place where he won’t get injured.

How Much Force Can You Use?

Generally, when making a citizen’s arrest, you’re granted power to use a reasonable amount of force to detain the evildoer until the police arrive. What’s considered reasonable? Again, it depends (for a non-lawyer, I’m giving a lot of lawyer-ly answers here, I know).

If you see a bad guy commit a felony, but he’s unarmed and isn’t fleeing, reasonable force would probably be grabbing his arm and saying, “I’m putting you under a citizen’s arrest until the police get here.”

Doing a flying jump kick to his sternum and then putting him in a sleeper hold while whispering ”shhhh…go to sleep my sweet little evil one” would probably be considered excessive force, and you could be liable for any injuries you may have caused the bad guy.

But let’s change the scenario up. Let’s say you see this same guy committing a felony, but he’s running away. Chasing and tackling him to the ground could be considered reasonable force. If he starts to wrestle away, you can use enough force to protect yourself and ensure that he stays put until the cops get there. So a punch in the ribs and a well-placed arm lock might be in order. If the bad guy was injured during your scuffle, you wouldn’t be liable for any injuries so long as the amount of force you used was reasonable.

What about deadly force? Can you ever use force that could kill a person (like shooting them with a gun) to make a citizen’s arrest? Every state has different statutes governing the use of deadly force in a citizen’s arrest. Most states prohibit the use of deadly force except in circumstances where the person making the arrest (or an immediate third party) is faced with the immediate threat of serious bodily injury or death. So if Mr. Bad Guy has a gun and is pointing it at you or bystanders while you’re trying to detain him, you could shoot him, throw a knife at him, or even tomahawk him in the back a la Mel Gibson in The Patriot, depending on the weapon you had at hand.

Some states allow private citizens to use deadly force to stop a fleeing arrestee even if the threat of serious bodily harm or death does not exist. For example, under South Carolina law, certain circumstances allow a citizen to arrest “a person in the nighttime by efficient means as the darkness and the probability of escape render necessary, even if the life of the person should be taken.”

In other words, as long as it’s nighttime and a felon is escaping, you can use deadly force when making a citizen’s arrest in SC.

In other states that allow deadly force during a citizen’s arrest, you’re usually required to first try and detain fleeing felons with more reasonable and less lethal means before you start going all Dirty Harry on them.

Can You Get Sued and/or Arrested for Making a Citizen’s Arrest?

I’m sure we’ve all heard stories of some Good Guy Greg who makes a citizen’s arrest only to find himself cuffed in the backseat of a police car or slapped with a lawsuit by Mr. Bad Guy. These sorts of stories offend our sense of justice. Why should a person be punished for trying to do the right thing?

Here’s the rub with citizens’ arrests: private citizens are held strictly liable when they attempt to arrest someone.  That means if your arrest fails to meet just one of the conditions discussed above, you could face both civil and criminal charges. Your good intentions aren’t worth a lick, I’m afraid.

For example, let’s look at the felony requirement. You’re out running and see some guy using a coat hanger to jimmy open a lock on a car door.

“That’s grand theft auto! Felony! I can arrest this guy!”

You quietly sneak up behind him and grab him.

“I’m placing you under citizen’s arrest!” you triumphantly proclaim.

“Let go of me you idiot! This is my car! I’m just locked out of it.”

Uh oh. You’re in trouble.

Remember, most states require that a felony actually have been committed before you place someone under a citizen’s arrest. There’s no allowance for reasonable mistakes. The guy you just wrongly arrested could charge you with battery and assault, and he could sue you for a whole host of things like battery and false arrest. Lesson: Make sure the person has actually committed a crime before you arrest them.

The area that gets a lot of people in trouble with citizens’ arrests is the reasonable force requirement. Remember, you’re only allowed to use a degree of force that is reasonable under the circumstances to detain a person. If you beat the crap out of a guy while making your arrest, when simply holding him down would have sufficed, the police could charge you with criminal assault and battery, and the bad guy could sue you for any injuries you may have caused him during the arrest.

Even if you meet all the requirements of a lawful citizen’s arrest to avoid criminal charges, there’s nothing stopping Mr. Bad Guy from leveling a civil suit against you. Sure, you’ll be able to defend yourself in court, but you’ll have to spend a considerable amount of time and money to do so.

So with all that said, should you even bother making a citizen’s arrest?

It depends (you knew it was coming).

In addition to the legal consequences, you’re also putting your own personal safety at risk. Every man will need to weigh the risks and rewards and decide when he thinks it’s worth it to take justice into his own hands.

Would you perform a citizen’s arrest if given the opportunity? Under what circumstances? Have you ever performed a citizen’s arrest? Share with us in the comments!

{ 119 comments… read them below or add one }

1 Dylan December 6, 2011 at 12:37 am

I live in Washington… disappointment

2 Wilson December 6, 2011 at 12:41 am

Man, the ending to this article is such a downer. That pretty much means unless someone’s about to get hurt/is getting hurt/is hurt, then I probably won’t want to help. Realistically, even then, I’m not sure I’d be man enough to make a step in disarm the evildoer.

3 chuck the truck December 6, 2011 at 12:44 am

One time i found myself in a situation where i could’ve made a citizen’s arrest while adequately satisfying all of the above requirements. What are the chances?!

and then some other events happened that were a little more probable…like winning the lottery

4 Jon December 6, 2011 at 12:46 am

Just checked, Citizen’s Arrests are allowed in Washington. Not sure where you saw that they weren’t but the district attorney has written a couple things about it.

5 Paul December 6, 2011 at 12:47 am

I live in Charleston… game on

6 Eric December 6, 2011 at 12:51 am

Good Guy Greg, eh? Always nice to see humor on this site.

Why wasn’t Mr. Bad Guy named Scumbag Steve?

7 Zack December 6, 2011 at 12:53 am

Good Guy Greg….I see what you did there.
That aside, great article.

8 steve December 6, 2011 at 12:56 am

Good read. As a 1L currently, it was more of a review on crime prevention, RPP, use of force privileges…all in time for exams! haha. Great knowledge to have though!

9 Bob December 6, 2011 at 1:04 am

I’m a little hesitant to believe the part about being allowed to use deadly force on a fleeing suspect.

In Tennessee v. Gardner, the Supreme Court ruled that police officers may deadly force on a fleeing suspect ONLY when the officer has probable cause to believe that the suspect poses a significant threat of death or bodily injury to the officer or others.

I don’t believe that the courts would give the average citizen MORE freedom to use deadly force.

10 Ian Miller December 6, 2011 at 1:10 am

Good stuff! Is it legal in Illinois?

11 Dalton December 6, 2011 at 1:12 am

As soon as I saw the title I thought of Gomer haha, great article.

12 Brett McKay December 6, 2011 at 1:13 am


Didn’t say they weren’t allowed in WA, just that WA does not have a specific statute allowing it. It’s governed by common law there.

13 Chad December 6, 2011 at 1:37 am


I don’t know about SC, but here in CO, the “Make my day” law certainly does give private citizens more freedom to use deadly force in their homes than we can out on the street:
“any occupant of a dwelling is justified in using any degree of physical force, including deadly physical force, against another person when that other person has made an unlawful entry into the dwelling, and when the occupant has a reasonable belief that such other person has committed a crime in the dwelling in addition to the uninvited entry, or is committing or intends to commit a crime against a person or property in addition to the uninvited entry, and when the occupant reasonably believes that such other person might use any physical force, no matter how slight, against any occupant.”

Regarding Tenn. V. Garner, that was a 4th Amendment case, and remember, the 4th amendment only applies to the government. Private citizens can (as long as they aren’t breaking other laws) search and seize as much as they want.

14 Nick Welch December 6, 2011 at 1:42 am

2 stories: I used to work at Safeway where they had a strict policy against confronting shoplifters. We were supposed to get a description & call the police. One night a guy that I had seen stealing liquor a few times before came in again & left 750 ml. of Crown Royal richer. I had enough. I gave chase & was promptly yelled at by my boss. I stopped. Come to find out another employee had done the same a few years earlier but had been severely injured in the fray. So they instituted the policy. Very dangerous business subduing a perp. Next story: A couple years later a bunch of punk kids stole a whole ton of booze. I saw them run out with the basket so I grabbed a can of creamed corn. They jumped in a getaway car & before they pulled away I hucked the can through their back window. It was immensely satisfying. All that to say, be smart, be creative & above all be decisive.

15 Steven December 6, 2011 at 1:42 am

I wouldn’t hesitate, depending on the circumstances. I’m the type to say something when it needs to be said, or do it, in this case.

16 Steven December 6, 2011 at 1:58 am


Creamed corn. Hilarious.

17 Jack December 6, 2011 at 3:29 am

It gets even more complicated for those of us citizens that choose to carry a firearm every day. Unfortunately criminals have no constraints such as to “gun free” zones or use of proportional force. With the increasing frequency of flash mobs you best hope is just to be lucky enough not to be around when crime happens.

18 dylan December 6, 2011 at 3:44 am

”shhhh…go to sleep my sweet little evil one” … classic

i have the usually heroic dream of making an arrest
quick thinking and putting it into action is another thing

19 Michael P. December 6, 2011 at 4:07 am

I wouldn’t recommend a citizen arrest.
Self defence or peace defence is other thing, but after crime/felony was committed and there is NO direct risk of following ones I would stay away.
Police is not able to prevent crimes, but it works pretty well for catching bad guys.

20 Rufus Magnus December 6, 2011 at 4:18 am

I performed a citizen’s arrest years ago, without actually meaning to.

I was in a Post Office with my then-girlfriend, when a woman came up and asked if she could leave the building with us when we did, as she was scared that her money would be taken by two men who were waiting outside for her. We agreed, and carried on with our business in the Post Office.

Suddenly a small man ran in, punched our new friend in the face, drew blood from her lip, grabbed her money and ran for the door. My girlfriend screamed, “Get him!”. So I did…

I’m 6’5″ and about 270 lbs, and he… well… wasn’t. I put him in a neck lock from behind, and simply lifted him off the ground. At which point, his buddy appeared, nearer my size and carrying a large knife. So I held Mr Tiny in front of me as a human shield while we both screamed at each other for a short period of time. As you would.

Luckily, there was a police van stopped outside at a red light, so they saw what was going on, came in and discussed the matter. They put the two chaps into the van and took them away. End of story, we thought, having retrieved the cash, dusted down our new friend, and seen her on her way. Not so, however.

As we walked home feeling all brave, we spied the police van parked down a side road, releasing the two fiends! Not feeling quite so brave all of a sudden, we ducked down a different road and took a more circuitous route home, Kind of left me somewhat deflated, to be honest.

Although, it did leave me with a story to tell.

21 JayMo December 6, 2011 at 5:05 am

Looks like I’m moving to South Carolina and becoming Batman!

22 Marcus December 6, 2011 at 5:18 am

There was an incedent reported on the news a few years ago. A “man” was beating his girlfriend, and a man on the bus saw it and got off the bus to try stopping him. He had served in the Army and was bigger than the little man. But the little man was a prison hardened gansta and beat the man very severly. He was in the hospital for awhile. Everyone else on the bus just called police, and did not try to help him. So if your going to help someone, you better be able to. Might want to take up what I call the 21st century gentleman’s martial art. The Russian martial system, aka systema. If you can fight like Vladimir Vasiliev, or punch like Col. Mikhail Ryabko, then I’d say go ahead and make lots of citizen arrests. Just don’t go looking in different neighborhoods than where you live and work. If you injure or kill ‘em you could have problems. Unless you solve your problems like the Soviets had Spetsnaz solve their hostage crisis in the 1970′s olympic games. Then I feel sorry for anyone suing you, and you might want to consider therapy. I’d recommend you watch the Discovery Go Warrior Systema show before clips like What is Systema? on YouTube, or it will seem to good to be true. Col. Ryabko also started learning the systema when he was about 5 from his “uncle” who had been one of Stalin’s bodyguards. I know I go on too much about systema, but it is the best martial art peroid. It’s nice not to have had lots of biases to other art before I learned of systema. p.s. It looks like Tai Chi on speed and trains one in all manner of weapos as an extention of the body.

23 Hal December 6, 2011 at 7:06 am

The gray area here is excessive force. Not even lawyers can define what that is. I would help someone being beaten, raped or in dire circumstances with the knowledge that I’m throwing myself in the rapids to save a drowning man.
Under no circumstance would I make a citizens arrest. I think that’s silly – let the police make arrests.
If you involve yourself physically, verbally or any contact with a criminal you will not simply be done with it and go home. At some point you will find yourself in court at the mercy of a judge and/or jury.
Help an old lady being assaulted? Yes. Help a child, or even the jolly green giant whose life is in jeopardy? Yes.
Trust the system to do the right thing?

24 Tyler S. December 6, 2011 at 7:22 am

You can make citizen arrests for really anything to be hones. For example if someone is drunk in public at a beach you can call the cops and say they were bothering everyone and make a “citizen arrest.”
HOWEVER: If they are proven innocent, then they can sue you for making the arrest.
Not worth it to take the risk. Unless you are in danger of your life or use the same force that is directed towards YOU then you can’t really help.

25 Majub December 6, 2011 at 8:18 am

Well you did describe all the shortcomings, but there are no benefits other than good feeling, and there are plenty of ways to get satisfied without jumping on criminals.

26 BuffaloSoldier December 6, 2011 at 8:19 am

I am from South Carolina with a Concealed Weapons permit. The new laws here permits a person to use deadly force to protect his/hers castle (home) and domain (anything outside the home thats on the property) without frear of prosecution or suit.
As for myself, if all are in the house and a domain situation occured, then I would let this be a police matter. Why would I risk life and limb for some replaceable item? If a perpetrator enters my castle (home) then I would without a dought open fire on him. I will protect my family and myself as God intended the man of the house to do. In a public place in SC. you are also portected and authorized to kill a perpetrator to protect the innocent such as a robbery.
Gun laws are changing everyday.
For a better understanding of the laws of your state see:

27 Kerry December 6, 2011 at 8:41 am

Two things.
In the heat of the moment, you may neglect to determine how many buddies the evildoer has waiting for him in the parking lot!
A good description of Scumbag Sam and maybe the license plate of the get-a-way vehicle might be the wiser choice.
Step in when required, but don’t throw away common sense!

28 Alpha December 6, 2011 at 9:08 am

This was a really great post, it reminds me of my post on practical driving tips.

I think it’s important that a man know his local laws and all of his rights. Remember that when you defend the freedom of others, you are defending your own freedom.

29 Belcher December 6, 2011 at 9:10 am

I live in a very rural part of Virginia and a local town policeman once suggested that everyone carry concealed if they could because of how long it takes rural police/emergency services to respond to a situation. Everyone who can, should carry a concealed weapon.

I think its incredible how crooks can bring lawsuit against those who stop them.How ridiculous.

30 R December 6, 2011 at 9:18 am

Generally speaking: NOT WORTH IT.

These days, even if you see a lost child on the street, it’s best to call the police and monitor from a distance for their safety. There have been past instances in the past where a parent misinterpreted as an abduction and gotten violent. Unless your in a visible uniform with authority (you work in a store where it happened, or you’re a cop), it’s not worth the risk.

That said, these days you can do an awful lot with a cell phone by shooting a quick video or taking a few photos for evidence.

There’s way to much risk here. It’s very easy to misinterpret a situation as the example in the post demonstrated. Kidnapping? Or a parent wrangling their kid out of a toystore? You make the wrong call, that’s felony assault and perhaps endangering a minor.

Odds are it’s not a crook who will sue you but a citizen who you misinterpreted as breaking the law. And rightfully so.

31 Rufus Magnus December 6, 2011 at 9:23 am

I must confess to a little disappointment at the tone of some responses on this one. Bearing in mind the name of this blog, we’re seeing a lot of “it isn’t worth it” comments.

I can fully understand that the current dichotomy of a society that is both violent and litigious might ensure that people stop getting involved, but if we always turn our head and walk away, the bad guys and lawyers (are the two mutually-exclusive?) will take over the world.

32 Eli December 6, 2011 at 9:29 am

Being a Canadian, and someone who used to work in stores arresting shoplifters, the rules in Canada are quite similar. Under the Criminla Code of Canada (Section 494) anyone who find someone committing an indictable offence (like a felony) can arrest them, using “as much force as is neccessary”. I arrested quite a few people under the act and never had any problems. However, the police usually gave them a warning and let them go as well. We also would give them a 1-year ban under the Tresspass to Property Act.

33 Mike December 6, 2011 at 9:45 am

I would probably say it’s not my problem.

34 Chris December 6, 2011 at 10:03 am

A few months ago, I saw two men chase, tackle, and start to beat a third man. The incident took place in a city neighborhood and no one took any action except for me.

Luckily, I had my 85 pound German Shepherd in the back of my SUV. I calmly drove across traffic and parked my car about 10 feet from the assualt. I put my four way flashers on, got out of my car, then took my dog out of the cargo area of my vehicle.

My dog and I ran towards the incidnet as I shouted at the men to stop. They must have thought I was a police officer due to the dog because they haulted the attack immeidately. I made all three of the men sit down and call the police. I waited until the police arrived and explained what happened and then left.
Once I had intervened, several other men approached and asked me if I needed help. Sometimes it only takes one person to take action for others to do the same.

35 NC 3808 (Retired) December 6, 2011 at 10:20 am

Maybe not completely germane to the discussion here, but if you need to feel like a hero, volunteer at the VA. To wit: My wife and I spent 18+ months chasing skips (bail jumpers) all over the Southeast. Guns leveled at us, outright ” Ho Chi Minh” surrenders at the point of a Taser or a .40S&W, the son of a skip I was chasing in GA leveled daddy’s 30-30 at me, then killed his girlfriend the next day. FWIW, North Carolina law allowed we agents to use ” force one step higher ” than the force the skip was using. Given that,on a raid into an alleged “Mexican Mafia” encampment, I carried my .40 and an AR-15, while my wife carried her .40 and a pistol grip pump 20GA. FWIW, all we had to ensure is that the skips were not severely injured enough to need medical attention- my wife was also the team medical officer. A member of the local SWAT team stated that even he could end up in the witness chair after a raid, but there would be only one side of the story to tell – (pointing at himself) “Mine.” Skips could not sue us, nor did we need arrest warrants, just a visual confirmation of their presence. The downside as we joked was that according to statute, we either were or were not law enforcement, depending on which was more inconvenient for us to do our job. We went to work every day with HAIR in mind- Honor, Accountability, Integrity, Respect. That’s one of the reasons we got out of it- hard to run on those principles when 99% of the industry did not. If you want to arrest people, go to school, get a badge. If you need to be a hero, see my opening comment. Otherwise, always do the right thing, and prepare for the consequences- because there are going to be some in today’s society. Thanks for the opportunity to comment.

36 David December 6, 2011 at 10:41 am

Citizen Arrest – not worth the risk in today’s legal atmosphere (sorry but too many liberal judges punish the innocent, not the guilty). I won’t open myself (hence my family) up to a civil suit that could ruin our life. However, I would without hesitation provide aid to someone in trouble with a bad guy, especially someone to old or young to defend themselves in a situation of life & death. But, I’d just chase the evil doer off – catching & arresting bad guys is the job of the law, not the everyday citizen.

37 Ardyth December 6, 2011 at 10:41 am

I agree with Rufus. A man does not stand by and do nothing while evil injures others.

38 Stephen December 6, 2011 at 10:47 am

1) Our nation already imprisons more of its own citizens than any nation on earth. We are the Prison Nation. The last thing we need is more arrests.

2) With more than 2.1 million citizens already behind bars, the only people that need arresting that aren’t already being arrested are TSA agents, police and politicians.

3) And you can’t arrest them. A police officer from my hometown murdered an unarmed citizen in cold blood a few years back. A group of citizens went to the police dept. and demanded a citizen’s arrest and were themselves threatened with – you guessed it – arrest.

Do not ever attempt a citizen’s arrest, and do not call the police for anything at any time. There is no situation so bad that government cannot make it worse.

39 Brent December 6, 2011 at 11:03 am

I wouldn’t want to hang my hat on that SC law. My guess is that it is an old law still on the books but not recently tested. For sure, good public policy cuts against what that law purports to allow; namely, our society doesn’t like vigilante justice.

Of course, that guy in Texas who shot that fleeing burglar after calling police got off. But that’s Texas, which has historically done its own thing. In just about any other state, that homeowner would have lost.

The only way I can see an ordinary citizen justified in killing a fleeing felon would be through self-defense; either for themselves or in the defense of another.

As someone else mentioned the Garner SCOTUS decision only allows police to use deadly force on fleeing felons when that felon presents a danger to the officer or others.

One other thing to add to this is that the ordinary citizen does not have the qualified immunity that police have when making arrests. That is, if you are going to make a citizen’s arrest, you better be right on all accounts.

40 Superstantial December 6, 2011 at 11:24 am

This article is a great example of a little bit of information being a dangerous thing.

It may not be my place to tell you how to do your job, but if I were in the position to write an article that 1) doesn’t convey any specific information in a useful way and 2) stokes readers nascent vigilantism fantasies, then I would probably refrain. I see you went a different way and I suppose that’s fine.

41 Chris December 6, 2011 at 11:54 am

Yeah, I can see people getting themselves in trouble because of this…

42 Josh December 6, 2011 at 12:02 pm

Very interesting article. Curious, I decided to consult my state laws pertaining to the matter, and not only is lethal force permitted, but “a person witnessing a felony must take affirmative steps to prevent it, if possible”, so that’s good to know. That said, a man from my tiny hometown has been sitting in jail for three months now for actually performing one.

For context, my hometown is extremely rural. The region is geographically isolated and has a reputation for people taking the law into their own hands. Back on September 1st a firebug burned down three houses and a bus before a group of community members surrounded him at ~6:00 am. Said firebug decided to flee, accelerating his truck toward a man on an ATV blocking the only exit to the hollow. The man motioned for him to stop, raised his rifle, then fired several shots into the truck cabin. This put the arsonist in pretty bad shape, so he was airlifted to the level one trauma center in a neighboring state. When the police arrived that evening, they arrested the man who had blocked the exit, and he’s been in jail since. You see, the police have been unable to question either the arsonist or the shooter in this time. The arsonist remains in serious condition, and is still unable to communicate. The shooter is a deaf-mute, never educated, cannot read, write or use sign language, and communicates entirely using impromptu gestures. While he’s a clever fellow (he can fix just about anything, hence how he makes a living), I’m rather worried since he can’t communicate a word to his defense nor afford a good lawyer, and I’m sure he’s profoundly confused by his current situation.

43 Chris M. December 6, 2011 at 1:05 pm

Years ago, when I lived in FL, I had a chance to perform a citizen’s arrest, but it was not meant to be. I was sitting in a grocery store parking lot, reading a book while my wife was shopping. I heard a lady cry out loud, then saw two guys running through the parking lot. The one in front was carrying a very feminine purse that I didn’t think qualified as a man bag. I started to get out of the car, but didn’t want to confront two perps. By the time a realized the second guy (I admit, he looked a bit scruffy) was a Good Samaritan, I headed out after them. The perp even jumped a hedge, fell and skidded a few feet, but we were unable to catch up. My hesitation kept me from getting the angle on the guy. When I saw him fall, I laughed a bit, but he made it to his getaway car on the other side of the hedge and was gone and we never got a plate number. All we could do was rest our hands on our knees, breathing like we just did the 400 yard dash. Couldn’t have been more than 100. All we could do was look at each other, shake hands and apologize to the little old lady the bum knocked down for her purse. I was kind of proud because the Good Samaritan turned out to be a god college kid who saw what happened and decided he wasn’t going to let that SOB get away with it. I still have hope for our youth!

Back here in Texas, I have a CHL and a 9mm. And the laws here are a LITTLE better than other places in the US when it comes to exercising our Second Amendment rights. I don’t bother anyone else and I expect them to do the same to their fellow man. If I feel someone is making mayhem on another, I wouldn’t hesitate. In my home or car, it’s criminal beware.

I have come to the realization that if we do not look after each other, no one else will. I’m tired of criminals who think they can steal rather than work. The sooner they understand that getting killed is an occupational hazard, the safer we’ll be. I would hope that someone would help me out, if needed.

44 Calvo December 6, 2011 at 1:09 pm

An a non-american… eh, It’s complicated.

Long story short: Around a year ago I was sitting on a pack bench with a girl around 9pm. Then comes this crackhead with a knife and says “Gimme the money”. I give him the five bucks or so I had in my wallet. He takes it, turns to go away, I chase him, screaming like crazy.

I chase him full speed for around 30 seconds when he turns the wrong way on a corner and a danceclub bouncer tackles him to the ground on the sidewalk.

We give the guy a couple kicks or so, take his knife away and get my glorious 5 bucks back. Bouncer becomes my instant best-bro. Cops arrive, handcuff the guy. I tell them everything that happened, fill the paperwork, girl and bouncer are my witnesses, blablabla.

Long story short: Robber goes free after two days. There’s no more room in jails and there’s a crack epidemic in town.

I had nightmares, insomnia and flashbacks with the thing for days and days. Granted, I believe I can now have knives pointed at me and kick faces without having nightmares, but I don’t know what to make of that.

45 Mark Petersen December 6, 2011 at 1:26 pm

Security guards have a little more freedom from lawsuit when it comes to citizen’s arrests (at least in my state). The company that hires them (like a mall or private firm) generally will protect them if they are ever sued in civil court. Criminal charges incurred in the line of duty may be a different story however.

46 Steve December 6, 2011 at 1:40 pm

Unless someone is in mortal peril, it’s smart to do as little as possible. You never know if the innocent you think you’re helping is just another grifter.

47 Jason December 6, 2011 at 2:17 pm

I performed a citizens arrest once. I was working the late shift and on my way home on the freeway at 2am, the guy in front of me was very intoxicated and bumped another car on the freeway. I called the cops and followed this guy for 12 miles until the cops showed up. The werent there for the car bumping so the police had me perform a citizens arrest on the guy.

They told me what to say which was basically “I am placing you under citizens arrest for fleeing the scene of an accident.” and that was that. They arrested him, I got a nice call from one of the cops and the district attorney a few days later and they convicted him of driving while intoxicated and fleeing the scene of an accident without me ever needing to goto court.

48 John Hosie December 6, 2011 at 3:26 pm

Wow! Just what I need! Barney Fife Lessons!!!!

49 Henrik G December 6, 2011 at 4:31 pm

Interesting post and interesting discussion in the coments.

Being from Sweden I see that there are many considerations concerning citizen arrests in the US that differs from those in Sweden. Besides that there are many general considerations that I think are applicable in most countries that have citizens arrest or similiar.

First, should you do an arrest? I am a certified security officer in Sweden and therefore I have both legal knowledge and practical training that makes it easier for me to make a good decision in such situation. I have been in situations where I have made citizens arrests and situations where I have decided not to and just reported to the police, sometimes following the criminal at a safe distance until the police got there.

I find that in many cases where private citizens could have made arrests that were reasonable safe they did not, often because they felt unsure what rights they had, sometimes because they did not want to get involved.

In other cases, citizens acted instinctively and tried to aprehend the bad guy without thinking through the situation, and later discoverd they bit off more than they could chew.

The long answer is that you shold do an arrest, after doing an analyzis of the situation, considering the risks involved, your capabilities, potential help, and the severity of the crime commited (E.g.I would be more prepared to take risks if the crime was against persons than I would if it was agains property). Saying that you never should make an arrest, that it is for the authorities and not your business is, at least, not my way of living my life.

Second, for comparison a short description of the law in Sweden:

Anyone can make an arrest if the crime commited has prison as ONE of the possible sentences stipulated in the law. (This is actually a great majority of criminal offences even though prison is not the usual sentence in many of them.)

The arrest must be made emediately at the time of the crime with the criminal “bare handed” or after a continous pursuit from the crime scene. You are not allowed to make an citizens arrest if you find the suspect, say an houre later.

You are allowed to use reasonable force to make the arrest and to uphold it. The force used should be in proportion to the resistance you meet and the severity of the crime. It is not OK to knock someone unconcious for stealing an apple but it could be reasonable in case you try to arrest a person you saw stab someone with a knife.

During the arrest it could be that the resistence you meet turn into an attack on you in which case you have the right to self defence which entitles you to use even more force. The resistence could also become a crime which is more sever than the one first commited which should also be considered when judging what force is reasonable.

When someone is put under citizens arrest he should as soon as possible be turned over to the police.

Hope I didn’t bore you to much with all this legal information from an obscure country in the north of Europe.

50 Mike December 6, 2011 at 4:37 pm

About 3 years back my neighbor (directly across the street) lost his house, like many others during this time. Within a few months about 3 meth-heads started squatting in the house, always causing trouble, inviting over all their meth-head buddies, screaming yelling all night, fighting with prostitutes, the whole 9 yards. The cops had came, made arrest, had the bank lock up the house and removed these guys probably 20 times up until 2-3 months back. They kept squatting. Well finally one night the police came in full force and arrested the 3 min guys, they even brought the “bird” in. Hearing all the noise I went out there to discover all this had happened. After speaking with the police, and the bank rep I was informed to call 911 immediately if I seen them anywhere in the neighborhood. I loved it, because I hate those guys, they’ve caused so much crap on our block and up until that moment it seemed as if no-one cared. So 2 weeks ago (and by now the bank had a ton of work done on the house as they were prepping it for the market) I’m watching Tebow and I see these d-bags, across the street completely f***ing this house up sledge-hammers, chainsaws, I mean they were going to town. I call 911 and arm myself, naturally. It was noon when I called at 6pm they were still there, the police did not show up. I informed the local station, I was in disbelief, I thought this kind of stuff only happens in Mexico city, not CA suburbs. I’m a lawful owner of many weapons, and I wonder if I could have done something? Probably not, regardless it was scary calling 911 and no body shows up.

51 Chris M. December 6, 2011 at 4:46 pm

I would hardly call Sweden an obscure country in the north of Europe, Henrik. Think of everything Sweden has contributed to the world. Linneaus, Nobel, Celsius, Pasch, Ericsson, echocardiography, the Nobel Prize, carbonated beverages, the zipper, ball bearings, the pacemaker, the gamma knife…
Quite a list of contributions. I could go on. Be proud. You’re country is your homeland. There is never any other place like it.

52 Brandon December 6, 2011 at 4:52 pm

Also would like to add Mikael Akerfeldt and NHLers like the Sedins, Alfredsson, and Loui Eriksson to Chris M.’s list of awesome Swedish exports.

53 Chuck December 6, 2011 at 5:14 pm

Property can be replaced; a life cannot. I’d only consider citizens arrest if someone were seriously in trouble and I would be able to handle the situation. If it’s someone else’s property, I’d just call the police.

Law be damned, I’d rather have a clear conscious rather than sit back and wait for someone else to do something if someone’s in trouble. Has anyone heard of the Kitty Genovese stabbing? 38 people witnessed it in some way but no one called the police until after she was dead.

54 Paul December 6, 2011 at 5:28 pm

”shhhh…go to sleep my sweet little evil one” = coffee out the nose.

55 Hart December 6, 2011 at 5:57 pm

I would like to see an article on the “Gentleman Outlaw”… Which in times past of overreaching authority, and oppressive laws, have been the true heroes of manliness.

56 Preston December 6, 2011 at 6:47 pm

Once while leaving a retail store I saw security running after a guy. It happened to be two female security officers trying to detain a big guy. They obviously needed help so I came up behind the guy, lifted him off his feet and slammed him into a car. I grabbed a set of cuffs from the security officer and cuffed him up. They walked him back into the store to process him, and I left quickly.

Unfortunately, situations can turn out badly also. A friend of mine ran down a shop lifter and was trying to detain him, and the guy had an aneurysm and died. He had to fight off two different lawsuits by the family.

The moral of the story is if you are going to intervene be careful or get out quick without giving anyone your name (which I always try to do).

57 Erik R. December 6, 2011 at 9:37 pm

While working as a jeweler, a guy snatched $7,000 gold chain from one of our older salesmen and took off running. I’m not sure why, but I ran after him.
He had not seen me running behind him, and after running out of the mall and into a residential neighborhood he started to walk. While running I called 911 and told them I was “in hot persuit” and gave a discription of the man.
The police found the man hiding behind a house, recovered the chain, and arrested him. All officers involved thanked me, but I was acually repremanded at work!
The corporation may have not been happy I put them at risk for higher insurance premiums, but I can always say I ran down a jewel theif in Penny Loafers!

58 John December 6, 2011 at 11:06 pm

Gotta love my state of SC!!

59 Jacob December 6, 2011 at 11:14 pm

I am fairly new to this website and after reading a few articles I noticed you mentioned Oklahoma quite a bit. Being born and raised in Muskogee I have a fairly extensive knowledge of the traditions, laws, sports, and people of Oklahoma. I would like you to e-mail me whether you are or aren’t an Oklahoman. Sooner born, Sooner bred, when I die, I’ll be Sooner dead. BOOMER SOONER!

60 Adam December 7, 2011 at 12:12 am

It’s no longer a citizen’s arrest as you do not need to be a citizen. It’s referred to as a private person’s arrest.

61 Lian D December 7, 2011 at 12:25 am

Good to know, great article

62 Jack December 7, 2011 at 1:43 am

It is interesting how many good men here would not take action because of the fear of legal repercussions. I admit I would be hesitant in all but an immediate threat to me or my family’s life. So why aren’t we doing more to lobby to have the laws changed?

63 CW December 7, 2011 at 3:40 am

I arrested a guy at a movie theater who sat by my wife, and a few minutes later he was gone and my wife’s purse. When I got him to the lobby, he was much bigger than me and a couple of other guys jumped in and helped. We held him until the police officer showed up. I had to testify at his trial. He was a homeless vet, and I saw him walking around town all the time after that. We kind of became friends and I would always stop and give him a ride to where ever he was going. Sometimes I would wait while he shopped at a store and then take him to where ever he was going. We had an ongoing relationship for about 8 years, when he left the state. He had a lot of challenges and I tried to encourage him.

64 Nick trevethan December 7, 2011 at 4:56 am

I stopped a guy stealing liquor. He asked for two bottles of vodka. The clerk bagged them and the thief snatched them. They played tug of war a few seconds before I realized what was happening. I asked her if he had paid she said no, he broke her grasp and bolted. I caught up with the guy at the door got a hand on him and started to pull him back. He resisted he had his hands on the frame and was stamping at my feet and slamming his heel into my shin.

I am a big guy. 6 feet 5 inched and 240 pounds but the thief was a strong little bugger.

I dragged him back in after 30 seconds of struggle with about a dozen shoppers staring at me. After a few more seconds of the clerk gawping like a fish on on land I asked her to lock the door. The thief was still struggling at which point I told him I intended to put him on the floor for everyone.s safety. Still mo one else helped. Finally after he stamped on my foot again, I threw him. He hit the floor, then the bag, shattering the bottles then me, hands first on the broken glass.

I got him in an arm lock while he squirmed, and I bled. Yelled for someone to call 999. Tis was in Britain btw. The their then started cursing me saying it was all my fault the bottles broke!

He started to calm down and I loosened my hold. Blood was pouring from my palms. Not a scratch on the thief then an older gent came up, bent down, looked at the thief and asked him if he was hurt! I almost let him go at that point. Anyway the cops arrived and hauled him off. They rolled an ambulance for me but the medics suggested I make my own way to ER to get stitched up. At which point I went home. I was taking a boat along the coast south coast from Devon to London next day and needed an early start. Sailing with open gashed in your hands is not smart.

Upshot. The thief got sent to council long. He was a repeat offender on probation but no jail time. I didn’t get so much as a thank you note from the store, although I didn’t pay for the small bottle of coke I drank while talking to the cops. And I also got a rewardshuge amount of grief from my wife.
So no glory, no reward, not even a thank you. I would still do the right thing but it would be nice, if you do stand up to at least get a thank you.

65 Kyle December 7, 2011 at 10:08 am

It’s not always about the glory. You can walk tall knowing damn well that you did the right thing, Nick. Good job.

66 Caleb December 7, 2011 at 10:33 am

Fellow North Carolinians, it is ILLEGAL to make a citizen’s arrest in our state right now. If someone surrenders to you, fine. But you cannot be the instigator of the arrest. If someone breaks into your house, you pull out the 12 gauge, and puts his hands up and surrenders, you’re good. If you tell him to put his hands in the air and get on the floor, not so good.

67 Brett December 7, 2011 at 12:01 pm

“Under what circumstances would I perform a citizens arrest?”

Rape – the clear “someone help me!” type. not the “i got drunk and regret what i did last night and now i have to save face” type.

I would be terrified to intervene but I can’t see that fear could override my indignation. Further, assuming that my presence was unnoticed at the time that I became aware, then I would be placed at a considerable tactical advantage and risk to my own body would be minimized (provided I could maintain stealth until action was initiated).

Ok, enough “armchair-tough-guy” for today.

68 Henrik G December 7, 2011 at 12:13 pm

Chris M & Brandon: Thank you for your kind remarks about my native country! :)

Chuck: Good point about the Kitty Genovese case. Exactly the kind of behavor I was refering to in my post about people not acting because they don’t want to get involved. Is that the kind of society we want to live in? Sometimes it’s good to ask one self what you would like other people to do if you or someone close to you was the victim!

69 Jacob Manuel December 7, 2011 at 1:35 pm

This is where I would make my argument in favor of being licensed to carry a concealed firearm. Simply demonstrating that you have a weapon by placing your hand on your holster or drawing on him is often enough to get a bad guy to comply, no force necessary. If the guy is dumb enough to attack you at that point, then you have reason to defend yourself with lethal force. It takes a lot of guesswork out of the whole thing.

70 Mike R December 7, 2011 at 3:30 pm

I work as a proprietary security officer in Ontario, Canada and was interested in reading about the citizens powers of arrest in the States. Wow what deference between Canada and the United States.

Up here we are governed by section 494 (1) of the Criminal Code of Canada which states…

494. (1) Any one may arrest without warrant
(a) a person whom he finds committing an indictable offence; or
(b) a person who, on reasonable grounds, he believes
(i) has committed a criminal offence, and
(ii) is escaping from and freshly pursued by persons who have lawful authority to arrest that person.
Arrest by owner, etc., of property
(2) Any one who is
(a) the owner or a person in lawful possession of property, or
(b) a person authorized by the owner or by a person in lawful possession of property,
may arrest without warrant a person whom he finds committing a criminal offence on or in relation to that property.
Delivery to peace officer
(3) Any one other than a peace officer who arrests a person without warrant shall forthwith deliver the person to a peace officer.
R.S., c. C-34, s. 449; R.S., c. 2(2nd Supp.), s. 5.

Plus there are other powers as defined in various provincial acts like the Province of Ontario Trespass to Property Act which states …

Arrest without warrant on premises

9. (1) A police officer, or the occupier of premises, or a person authorized by the occupier may arrest without warrant any person he or she believes on reasonable and probable grounds to be on the premises in contravention of section 2. R.S.O. 1990, c. T.21, s. 9 (1).

Delivery to police officer

(2) Where the person who makes an arrest under subsection (1) is not a police officer, he or she shall promptly call for the assistance of a police officer and give the person arrested into the custody of the police officer. R.S.O. 1990, c. T.21, s. 9 (2).

BTW We don’t do the bounty hunter thing up here in Canada nor do we get to carry guns. If it looks to get nasty we simply back off and let the Police handle it. I have yet to see an object that a thief is stealing worth somebody’s life. Mind you coming to the aid of a victim of assault or rape is another ball game…

71 daniel December 7, 2011 at 3:55 pm

my brother-in-law stopped a random guy while he was assaulting his girlfriend by holding her hair in one hand and punching her in the face with the other…in a car at a mcdonald’s parking lot. my brother opened the car door to stop him and the guy took a swing at my bro. then my bro busted the dude’s face open with a couple of swift jabs. the police showed up right as the dude got punched. fortunately, some old geezer inside saw the whole thing. my bro had to go downtown to the police department but was released with no problems and thanked by the police who were laughing at the criminal who received stitches to go with his jail time :)

72 Robb December 7, 2011 at 4:55 pm

A few years back I worked at an electronics retailer. I was working a closing shift at the Computer repair counter. Store closes at 9. A man (the bad guy) walks in around 8:45, I’m only 5’6 175lbs so this guy at probably 6 foot 215lbs looks huge to me. He looked pissed and marched over to the customer service counter. The schedule had made it so that I was basically the only male on the sales floor with about 4 or 5 ladies in customer service and 2 or 3 guys in the warehouse.

The store was empty so I left my area to walk over to the customer service counter to make sure nothing weird happened.

By the time I get there the shouting match has already begun. The manager on duty, a well built, tall woman could’ve probably taken the guy out on her own, was on the receiving end of this guys insults. The man gets in my managers face and two hand shoves her! All the girls behind the customer service desk scream.

My immediate first response was to protect my co-workers. I ran over and got in between my manager and the bad guy. I had to look up to stare into his eyes, they were blood shot and glassy, looked like he felt invincible. I mustered up the deepest voice I could and said ” you need to leave, NOW!” and I shoved him back as hard as I could. We push back and forth an I eventually pushed him out through the auto sliding doors.

He was outside! I thought it was over, then he says “come out here and I’ll kill you, you little B****”

For some reason this set me off. I ran out side, I told him he better make good on his promise before I get my hands on him. He ran to his car pulled out a metal bat that had been strategically placed in the backseat. He ran at me and swung with both arms!!! I leaned back to dodge the swing he missed by literally inches, I felt the force of the swing on my face. I cocked back my fist to punch, before I could follow through someone had tackled him, it was one of the warehouse guys. The bat fell on the ground, I picked it up. They were on the floor wrestling. I pulled back the bat for a strong swing aimed right at the bad guys head, before I could follow through, a bystander snatched the bat out of my hand from behind. He said “don’t do it! you’ll kill him”. The bad guy managed to get up and came at me again, I don’t know if he was exhausted or intoxicated or what but he ran at me and tried to bear hug/squeeze me!!? I shoved him off. He moved towards his car “gimme my bat and I’ll leave” Obviously I said “no get it from the police when they show up” the man who took the bat from me thought otherwise, he said “ok, take your bat and leave”

He tossed the bad guy back his bat at which point he started to walk back towards his car, he took about two steps before he did a spinning swing and whacked my Co-worker, the one who had tackled him, hit him on the side of his head! Everything seemed to slow down and took forever for the swing to make contact with my co-workers head but when it did CRACK! you could see a dent on the side of his head as he fell to the ground, his eyes rolled back blood spit out from the skin that popped open from the force of the hit, I was certain he had just died! I dropped down to the floor to protect him, I turned my back towards the bad guy to shield my injured co-worker. I closed my eyes and waited for what seemed like 5 minutes for a bat to hit me on my back

Luckily, a crowd had formed by now, I have no idea where the people came from as it was late at night in a mostly empty shopping center. But there was probably 5 or six people there watching. It spooked the bad guy. He jumped in his car and screeched out of there. a few seconds later I hear people screaming and I look up to see the bad guy driving through the empty parking lot at full speed coming right at us. I was still crouched down with my co-worker and this time I was certain i was done for. but nothing, he zooms past us out of the parking lot, into the street.

The police and ambulance show up some time later, they take away my co-worker and ask everyone some basic questions.

The bad guy had come in to complain about a DVD player that he had purchased warranty on, the warranty had expired and the store would not cover the repairs. Luckily the warranty information had his address, phone number, full name everything. We gave this to the police and they were able to go right to his house. there was a standoff and the bad guy tried to off himself with some meds but the police got to him and took him in.

Everyone in the store commended my “heroics” but I felt like anything but a hero. I protected my co-workers from a force physically greater than myself and for that I am proud of myself, but I also manged to get someone hurt while protecting my pride. Getting the bad guy out of the store should have been good enough.

My Co-worker who took the bat swing to the head, suffered mild brain damage luckily it was mostly reversible with rehab. He was unable to completely talk, drive or even walk right for a while. His family thanked me and called me a hero for protecting him while he was down. But it felt misplaced.

scariest part happened a few weeks later when the police called me in for a photo lineup identification. There was I think 4 or 5 cards with maybe 8 portraits on each. I could not tell them which guy it was, I had no idea! The man I had stared down while I forced him out of the store and swung a bat at my face, I would not recognize him if he were sitting next to me!

Moral of the story is to measure your heroics and make sure that you really are helping and know when to leave well enough alone.

73 lamer December 7, 2011 at 6:46 pm

I happened to see some young guy doing graffiti on an old-folks home one evening, so I started taking pictures with my cel phone. He notices and comes at me with the spray can. I’m not much of a fighter, but I figure rather than cringe or run, I should “take the fight to him.” So I tried to launch this ridiculous high kick, but end up falling and twisting my knee. At this point I feel a little desperate since I’m down, but it enrages me all the more, so I continue to lash out at him until I can regain my feet. The bad guy seemed a little conflicted: he alternated between hiding his face with one arm, trying to grab my cell phone, and trying to spray me with paint. So I eventually get back on my feet, then on his next approach, I connected a decent punch to his face, after which he turned tail and ran.

I go limping down the street, only to encounter a parked cop car less than a block away. I briefly describe the guy and the scene, and they drive away after him.

Later, I called the cops and sent them my pictures. Unsure if anything came of it.

Weeks later, I’m still recovering from the knee injury. I also pondered what might have happened had I been carrying a gun. Would I have had the presence of mind to draw down on him and make a citizen’s arrest? Or would I have done the same instinctive fisticuffs thing?

74 Richard P. Ervin December 7, 2011 at 11:25 pm

I was once a commissioned law enforcement officer, and as such, I performed many regular arrests. Not long after I left that job, I was nonchalantly eating in our local beanery when I looked out the window to see a young thug stealing a truck receiver hitch. I was suitably incensed. I left the restaurant and snatched the thug up and very lightly pinned his arms in a little come along move. I then took him back inside to an unsuspecting constable that I had spotted eating dinner at the same time I was. Case closed. This was years ago, and I must admit that I would think twice or three times before I did that again. If a persons life was in danger, I would go into action again, but not for just any old thing. Too much chance of lawsuit!

75 mark December 8, 2011 at 2:17 am

Unless a felon is posing an immediate threat to someone else’s life or health, it’s just not worth it. No good deed goes unpunished.

76 Aaron December 8, 2011 at 1:44 pm

Careful there, Mike R from Ontario.

You can get into some legal trouble here if you refer to yourself as a security “officer” instead of as a security guard. Check your license, that should confirm it. I’m also licensed here in Ontario, and the legal consequences are absurd but real nonetheless.

77 Judge Roy Bean December 8, 2011 at 7:03 pm

This is on the art of manliness website correct. Man the hell up! Cowards stay home, or get in line for slaughter. One can usually take a law class at a local community college or even sign up for a Community Oriented Police class. Here’s a suggestion, read the law. IT is not that complicated. As a retired Chief of Police I always welcomed people into my office to discuss such things.

78 Scot December 8, 2011 at 8:30 pm

Just have to point out the irony of the Gomer video leading the story. Mayberry is set in North Carolina – based on Andy Griffeth’s home town of Mount Airy. But North Carolina is one of the states that doesn’t allow citizen’s arrest. Guess Barney didn’t have as much to worry about as he thought :)

79 Eric B. December 8, 2011 at 9:13 pm

Plenty of times, when working as a doorman. Though I had no special legal protections as such, the cops never questioned us, and we never got sued. Of course, I had great guys working with me, and we knew what to do.

80 Peter December 8, 2011 at 10:00 pm

“No good deed goes un-punished”

81 Josh December 9, 2011 at 9:26 am

Looks like Lifehacker liked this article so much they repackaged it and posted it today…

82 Brad December 9, 2011 at 10:33 am
83 Mark December 9, 2011 at 10:36 am

That’s pretty shadey of lifehacker.

84 Nick December 9, 2011 at 11:28 am

I have actually made a Citizens arrest here in Pittsburgh PA. A tackled a man robbing a food store and held him down until police arrived. I was contacted by the police and they wrote me a very nice letter of recommendation.

85 Nick December 9, 2011 at 12:09 pm

BTW ^^^ I was 19 and straight out of the USMC Military Police school. =p

86 Tate Fegley December 9, 2011 at 4:17 pm

Your historical comment on English common law is inaccurate. “Citizen’s arrest” predated sheriffs. In medieval Anglo-Saxon England, there was no such thing as public police. Communities were organized into tithes and hundreds, providing mutual protection for each other. There was no such thing as criminal penalties either, but only torts (therefore not including victimless crimes). Kings found the opportunity to raise revenue from such arrangements, claiming that people committing torts were disturbing the “king’s peace” and would be forced to pay a fine. The number of things that were listed as disturbing the king’s peace grew and soon the government took more and more power for itself in a law enforcement role. Please see Bruce Benson’s “Enterprise of Law” for a more detailed history.

87 geeknik December 9, 2011 at 5:56 pm

This article sounded familiar. And then I realized I just read it @ Hmmmmm..

88 Kurt December 9, 2011 at 6:05 pm

I work part time as a security guard. In Sweden it’s a job with strict regulations set up by the National Police: Screening: You cannot have a felony rap sheet, you can’t even be a suspect in an ongoing felony investigation. Your finances must be in order. The Security Service must confirm that you’re not a suspected terrorist. The list goes on.
Basic training: 14 days, 112 hours, curriculum specified and instructors approved by the National Police. Much of the training concerns our legal issues.
That’s before any security firm is allowed to hire us. The reason for this is that we operate on delegation from the police and e.g. guard government office buildings.
The thing is that despite the screening and training we basically — there are exceptions — don’t have any special rights. When we intervene, we do it exercising the same rights that every citizen has — or any non-citizen for that matter. When we make an arrest, it is in fact a citizen’s arrest.
The difference is that we are expected to know our rights, and their limits.
The laws and rules are very similar to the US. They stem from the same roots. But there are two points I’d like to bring up that may or may not be different.
1) In order to make an arrest, you need to see the perp commit the crime (the felony/misdemeanor line is different so I’ll leave it aside) and catch him on the scene or fleeing. If you loose sight of him for so much as a second, forget about it. You can’t come around the corner and think, “That’s him. I recognize him.” It won’t hold up in court, and you’ll be charged with a false arrest. In my case, loose my job, because here that’s a felony.
2) You can assist in somebody else’s citizen’s arrest. If a lady shouts, “Stop him! He grabbed my purse!” and it’s quite clear who she means, I can take him down, using the necessary force etc, even if I didn’t see him commit the crime. I can help her call the cops on my cellphone, and hold him until they arrive. But it’s her arrest. If for some reason she doesn’t want cops, I have to let him go — with the purse, if he claims it. After all, I only saw it in his possession.
If I didn’t use excessive force, I won’t be charged with battery, even if he was completely innocent. I have acted in good faith and according to the laws of the realm.
As to use of force, there are two rules:
1) Necessary force means more force than his. I may hit harder than he did or even use a blunt instrument.
2) The tricky thing is the rule of proportionality. The force I use must not only be in proportion to the force the perp uses but also in proportion to the crime he committed. You can’t maim a guy over a snatched purse. If you can’t hold him otherwise, you’ll have to let him go. Even with the purse.

89 Devin December 10, 2011 at 11:26 am

I use to bounty hunt fugitives. Our town just had a case where the intruder was fleeing a break in. The guy was shot in the back 3 times and killed. The person who shot the intruder was charged with firing a weapon in city limits 50 dollar fine….

90 jeremy December 10, 2011 at 5:26 pm

Here in colorado we can perform a citizen’s arrest for any crime.

91 Daniel Lewis M.1964 December 11, 2011 at 12:36 pm

I made a citizens arrest on a pervert in the park a few years back, here’s what happened.

My wife and I were biking through Minnehaha Falls Park, in Minneapolis, MN in the summer of 2005 when we came across this man, pants down to his knees and his hand moving real fast on his you know what, standing about 30 feet from a young lady who was tanning herself, My wife and I looked at each other and I told her to call the police while I headed for the perp/perv to detain him until the police arrived. My wife told me to forget it when the guy headed down this very long set of concrete stairs trying to make his escape. But it was on, he was mine, I got off of my bike and began the foot pursuit. It didn’t take long for me to apprehend the perv because I was in pretty good shape but he was really out of shape being at least 50 pounds overweight. I caught up with him, told him the police are on their way and he wasn’t going anywhere. He told me he was a medical student and that I was going to ruin his life, I told him if his life is ruined it’s nobodies fault but his own. The police arrived and took him into custody. The thanked me for running him down but not getting physical with him. The woman in the bikini said that she wanted to press charges on the perv so they took him away. They took my name and contact information but I never heard anything from anybody which leads me to believe that either the perv pleaded guilty or no charges were ever filed–I just don’t know and that kind of sucks! Anyway, my wife really talked the incident up to our friends and family so I was known as a brave man for a while there! Would I do it again, yes without a doubt.

92 Quentin December 11, 2011 at 3:23 pm

Here in Florida, I BELIEVE it is legal to use lethal force against someone breaking into your house, as I would. If someone breaks into my house, its shoot first ask questions later.

93 Alan December 11, 2011 at 7:05 pm

I think that it would be awesome to put somebody under arrest… however I think that i am not fully equipped to do it.

94 Matt December 11, 2011 at 9:13 pm

My brother was walking down a street in CA, when he heard a voice over a loud speaker asking him for assistance. It was a police officer in his car having a bit of trouble with a man fleeing on foot in the direction of my brother. He jumped at the opportunity and speared the perp over the hood of a car and into the street where the bad guy received a body slam to the pavement courtesy of my 210lb former college linebacker brother. The police showed up promptly to do some bad guy butt kicking of their own and my brother got a hardy hand shake and a thank you. Not to mention the story he gets to tell about kicking a little butt, legally.

95 Vexionic December 13, 2011 at 11:12 pm

Hypothetically, What if you were walking down a street, feeling real nice, feeling real neat, then you look down a ally and see two people making love. You start to turn away then the woman states, “Help! This dude is raping me!” and so you decide to be Mr. Hero and you run up and take the guy out with a superman punch and his head then hits the corner of a dumpster. You hold him down and call the cops then the lady runs away thanking you. Later in court the guy says, “That was my girlfriend for 6 months and she was begging me to have sex. I didn’t want to do it at first but she convinced me otherwise. Next thing I know she is saying I’m raping her and I get knocked the f**k out by some dude.”
Would Mr. Hero be charged with assault?

96 Kade December 14, 2011 at 2:44 am

Just shy of a year ago I had an opportunity to do just this – and I successfully sort of half did it.

I was walking a fine lady to my car, when we discovered that it had been broken into, and her purse had been rummaged through and things were missing. We called the police, and while we were waiting for them I noticed a fine and upstanding member of society behaving quite suspiciously. At this time I chose to subtly follow and observe said fellow only to discover that he was using a flashlight, knife, and hammer all stolen from my car to break into other vehicles along his path. My lady friend had waited at my car for the police, so I called her while following the fellow and asked her to stay on the line and inform the police of my location when they arrived.

In this particular case I did not actually perform a citizens’ arrest, rather I chose to go the safer route and follow and report on the thief’s current location. That being said had the situation been one in which a person’s life or health was in danger, it may have been a different scenario all together.

I would like to say that this particular event was one of many reasons I decided to get my CCW (Carry Concealed Weapon) permit in my state – if it comes down to it, I am legally allowed and morally obligated to use deadly force to defend myself or another person.

97 judy December 14, 2011 at 2:45 am

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98 Stephen December 14, 2011 at 3:39 am

There is a substantial amount of risk involved in making a citizens arrest, however in my neighborhood we have had several issues with young hoods and thugs running around robbing people and ocasionally raping women, luckily so far they only kill each other. But we had enough of their crap, and set out to police our own neighborhood, since then we have caught and gotten convictions on over 15. The police can’t help us, they don’t have the budget, so we do what we have to to live in peace, and the lawmen couldn’t be happier with our actions.

99 Kevin December 15, 2011 at 10:58 am

Seems like a bad idea to make a citizen’s arrest. The law is too complicated, and the risk/reward ratio doesn’t seem right. You could get sued, arrested, or even killed if the criminal is more armed than you!

100 Javi December 15, 2011 at 7:27 pm

With all the caveats, it sounds better to just, “mind yourown business”.

Only time I would get involved is if I see an attack on children, women & the elderly.

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