Yes, A Citizen’s Arrest Is A Real Thing
A citizen’s arrest is an arrest made by a citizen who has no official arrest authority because they are not a law enforcement officer or government agent. And believe it or not, making a citizen’s arrest is legal in California.
Making A Legal Citizen’s Arrest In CA
California law authorizes a citizen’s arrest only under certain circumstances. To make a lawful citizen’s arrest, the arresting individual must:
- Witness the perpetrator committing a misdemeanor in their presence…
- And/or witness a perpetrator commit a felony or have reasonable cause to believe they committed a felony.
A few examples of a lawful citizen’s arrest would be:
- If you witness someone punch another person in a bar, unprovoked, you could place them under citizen’s arrest for assault.
- If a prostitute solicits services on the street from you, you could place him or her under citizen’s arrest for solicitation.
- If you see someone shoplift while you’re out shopping yourself, you could stop them and place them under citizen’s arrest for shoplifting.
Note: There are certain procedures California law recommends any individual attempting a citizen’s arrest follow. These procedures include:
- Clearly inform the arrestee that they are under arrest
- Communicate the reason for the arrest
- Express the authority for making the arrest
You should exercise care if you decide to make an arrest. A wrongful arrest could lead to civil and/or criminal charges. Furthermore, attempting a citizen’s arrest could place you and/or others nearby in danger if the perpetrator is armed or becomes violent.
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