Making a Citizen’s Arrest: What You Should KnowSuppose you witness someone breaking the law in Texas officer is around. Are you allowed to make a citizen’s arrest or not? There are elements to understand when considering the legality of this situation. First, what constitutes a citizen’s arrest? Second, what must be met in order to arrest someone?
Definition and ReasoningA citizen’s arrest is any arrest made by a public citizen without a warrant. Per Lacy V. State, The Texas Court of Appeals reasoned necessity was the principle behind citizen’s arrests. The Court highlighted the necessity to promptly restrain wrongdoing. When few authorities are present, and they are slow to respond to crime, the reality is that crime will increase. When others are empowered to act, and are quicker, crime will likely decrease.
PrerequisitesIn order to effect a legal citizen’s arrest in Texas, three conditions must be present.
- Compliance: The arrest must comply with federal and state constitutional provisions pertaining to “unreasonable search and seizure”. In making a citizen’s arrest, we must ensure to not abuse those we are detaining or arresting.
- Location: The crime must have been committed in the citizen’s presence or within his view. In other words, one may initiate an arrest if the citizen and the criminal occupy the same temporal and spatial zone.
- Severity: The crime must be either a felony or a breach of peace. Put differently, we are looking at either a significant loss of life and property, or actions calculated to disturb the inhabitants of a place.
Probable Cause In Citizen’s ArrestsThose making the arrest must be able to prove “probable cause”. Probable cause is: the existence of reasonably trustworthy information sufficient to warrant a reasonable person to believe that a particular person has committed an offense. A Texas citizen may make a citizen’s arrest if all are met : a. there is probable cause b. if they are present or an eyewitness to a crime c. if the crime is either a felony or a breach of the public peace d. if the arrestor is complying with constitutional provisions pertaining to search and seizure.
I would not advise making a citizen arrest for a variety of reasons. First, most citizens are not trained to understand what probable cause means and the proper use of force to make an arrest. Failure to understand the proper procedures can result in liability. The person the citizen intends to be arrested will probably over react because the “arresting citizen” is not seen as a officer and the situation will escalate. All citizens have a right to defend themselves, others and their property. Going beyond that, will only subject yourself to liability.
Call the Police!