In certain situations, private individuals have the power to make an arrest without a warrant. These types of arrests are known as citizens arrests, and they occur when ordinary people either detain criminals themselves or direct police officers to detain a criminal.
Citizens arrests are subject to fewer constitutional requirements than an arrest by law enforcement officers, but citizens arrests still have rules that govern them. Failure to abide by these rules can result in civil and criminal liability for the arresting individual.
A person can arrest someone that they reasonably suspect of committing a felony, even if the felony did not occur in the presence of the individual making the arrest. As long as a felony was actually committed and the individual making the arrest knew of the crime, a reasonable suspicion about the identity of the perpetrator will justify their arrest.
The felony must have actually occurred before an individual can make a citizens arrest. Even if a person reasonably believes that a felony has occurred, if the crime did not in fact happen, the person making the arrest could become civilly and criminally liable.
Moreover, in general, people can not use citizens arrests for misdemeanors unless the misdemeanor involves a breach of the peace. Even in these circumstances, however, individuals can only make arrests when they have personally witnessed the criminal behavior and the breach has just occurred or there is a strong likelihood that the breach will continue.
Citizens arrest do not carry the same constitutional requirements that attach to an arrest by law enforcement officers. If a person acts on the request of law enforcement, any arrest they carry out must meet the same constitutional standards as an arrest by the law enforcement officers themselves.If a citizen acts on their own initiative in making the arrest, however, those same constitutional restrictions do not apply.
Every individual is empowered to arrest wrongdoers in certain circumstances, but individuals looking to make a citizens arrest act at their own risk. Not only is the act of apprehending a criminal inherently dangerous, but failure to meet the legal requirements for a citizens arrest could have devastating consequences for the person making the arrest.
If you or a loved one is in a bind as a result of a criminal charge, immediately contact a Seattle Criminal Attorney. A Criminal lawyer is not going to judge you, and understands that everyone makes mistakes. Hiring a Seattle Criminal Lawyer to help can – at a minimum – reduce penalties, and can help direct people on how to best deal with their criminal charge, and many times even get them dismissed. So it should go without saying that someone cited for a misdemeanor or felony should hire a qualified Seattle Criminal Lawyer as soon as possible. Criminal charges can cause havoc on a person’s personal and professional life. Anyone charged with a crime in Washington State should immediately seek the assistance of a seasoned Seattle Criminal Lawyer.