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Johannes Mehserle CITIZEN ARREST WANTED POSTER! Distribuite Widely!
by ORGANIZE OAKLAND (ORGANIZEOAKLAND [at] YAHOO.COM)
Monday Jan 12th, 2009 5:10 PM
In many countries around the world, civilians are empowered to stop a perpetrator in the act of a serious crime and take the arrested to a courthouse or police station, or keep them from leaving until an officer of the law arrives. The conditions under which this is permitted vary from place to place, but in case you are ever in a situation where you can stop a criminal, you should know what your options are
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What is a Citizens Arrest?

In many countries around the world, civilians are empowered to stop a perpetrator in the act of a serious crime and take the arrested to a courthouse or police station, or keep them from leaving until an officer of the law arrives. The conditions under which this is permitted vary from place to place, but in case you are ever in a situation where you can stop a criminal, you should know what your options are

By: Collin McKibben, Attorney at Law & Ariella Rosenberg

Everyone is familiar with the term citizens arrest: we have seen it on TV, read about it in books, and even heard about it in social circles. Surprisingly, however, almost nobody really understands what a citizens arrest is, or legally, what it represents.

A citizen's arrest is an arrest performed by a civilian who lacks official government authority to make an arrest (as opposed to an officer of the law). An arrest, as defined by Black's Law Dictionary, is "The apprehending or detaining of a person in order to be forthcoming to answer an alleged or suspected crime." Ex parte Sherwood, (29 Tex. App. 334, 15 S.W. 812).

Although generally the person making a citizens arrest must be a citizen, in certain states, a citizens arrest can be carried out by a civilian who is not a citizen (for example, an alien or illegal immigrant). A citizens arrest does not necessarily mean an arrest made by a single individual who happens to witness a crime. For example, a department store may also carry out a citizens arrest in the course of apprehending a shoplifter.

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 importantunwarranted 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 felonymay 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 offenseat 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.


Notify authorities if you can. Law enforcement officials strongly encourage citizens to phone in a complaint or tip rather than try to stop a crime themselves. You should carefully consider whether you're putting yourself or others in more danger than necessary by making a citizen's arrest. A citizen's arrest is only an emergency measure to stop a suspect until law enforcement officials can take matters into their own hands. If you think that the local police will be able to find the suspect, a citizen's arrest may not be necessary. With a detailed description and a license plate number, you can arm the police with the information they need to apprehend the suspect.
Evaluate the situation clearly. You could be legally liable if you make a false accusation or if you assault someone without a very strong reason to think they are in the middle of a crime. How close are you? Can you see what's going on? Do you know the participants? The best time to make a citizen's arrest is when you've witnessed the suspect in the very act of committing a crime, without any doubt as to who the suspect is and what they were doing.


Remember that things are not always what they seem. What you might interpret as a child being kidnapped could, in actuality, be a parent or a relative carrying away a child who's throwing a temper tantrum. In this case, assumptions about whether the person is related to the child (if, for example, the person is of a different race than the child, and/or is misinterpreted to look like a homeless individual) can result in legal action against you.
Consider the severity of the crime being committed. Citizen's arrest laws vary by the degree of the crime in suspicion. In many places, it must be a felony (usually a serious crime involving violence) in order to justify a citizen's arrest. You should know where the line is drawn in the country you're in when you witness the crime. Borderline crimes include vandalism and driving while intoxicated.
Say "Stop". Tell the suspect loudly and forcefully to stop what they're doing. Hold up your hand to indicate stopping. If they have a weapon, tell them to put it down (Think twice about making a citizen's arrest of an armed subject).
Tell the suspect that they're under citizen's arrest. Tell them that they're not allowed to leave until a police officer comes and that they can explain the situation to the police when they arrive. Be firm and matter-of-fact.


In the U.S., A Miranda Warning is only required if you are both detaining AND questioning the suspect simultaneously. You do not need to read a suspect their rights if you question then detain.
If the suspect tries to leave, think very carefully before physically restraining the suspect. Not only will you put yourself in physical danger, but you could be subject to legal liabilities for use of excessive force. You can only use enough force to restrain the suspect. If they manage to run away, then the arrest has not been completed. Also, note that in at least some countries it is illegal to lock up the suspect or tie him to something.
Remember that you have no right to question or search the suspect, or to seize any kind of evidence.
Call local authorities. Get in touch with the local police department on the spot if you have a cell phone. Call your local emergency number e.g. 911 in the U.S. and Canada; 112 or 999 in the UK or 112 in Europe (it can differ from country to country); 000 in Australia; 111 in New Zealand. If you don't have access to a phone, send someone to call from a payphone. It is not recommended that you attempt to transport the suspect to the local authorities yourself.
Identify yourself to the police when they arrive. When the police arrive, let them know who you are, what you saw, and why you held the suspect. Remember that you will probably need to be in court to provide eyewitness testimony for the crime, so stay calm and stick to the facts. Don't tell them what you think happened, tell them exactly what you saw and who you saw doing it.



Tips

When dealing with potential criminals, it's better to be on the side of caution and leave the crime control to trained professionals.
In most cases, you don't need to be a citizen of the country you're in in order to make a citizen's arrest.
Be as observant as possible. Even if you aren't able to keep the suspect at the scene, you will be able to act as witness and identify the suspect later.
Be confident. Showing the suspect that you don't know what you're doing will make them more likely to leave the scene of the crime.
LATEST COMMENTS ABOUT THIS ARTICLE
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Fuck the poloceme@me.comWednesday Jan 14th, 2009 11:15 AM
ME me meMETuesday Jan 13th, 2009 2:07 PM
Dangers of Making an Erroneous Citizens ArrestMike NovackTuesday Jan 13th, 2009 5:59 AM

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