Is a Citizen’s Arrest Legal in Arizona?

How Do Citizens Arrests Work in Arizona?

Under Arizona law, you can make a citizen’s arrest when you witness some specific type of crime. But the problem is, making a citizen’s arrest carries risks with it that the criminal might harm you in the process. Or you’ll face prosecution for your actions during the arrest, which will mean you’ll need an Arizona criminal defense attorney.

Witnessing a crime and watching the criminal try to escape feels disheartening. But before you take action, consider the repercussions you could face.

We’ll outline Arizona law around a citizen’s arrest and considerations for your criminal defense if you face charges for making a citizen’s arrest.

Types of crimes you can make a citizen’s arrest for

Not all types of Arizona crimes allow for a citizen’s arrest. Instead, the law allows for such a citizen’s arrest when you witness the following crimes being committed.

  • Aggravated assault
  • Armed robbery
  • Arson
  • Burglary
  • Child molestation
  • Kidnapping
  • Manslaughter
  • Murder
  • Sexual assault
  • Sexual misconduct with a minor

For any other crimes that you witness, you should stand back and let the professionals do their jobs.

Arizona law 13-3884 outlines when an individual who is not an officer of the law can detain someone. They must be in the presence of someone who committed a misdemeanor or felony. The private person must have reason to believe that law enforcement would detain the alleged criminal.

The issue at hand in a citizen’s arrest is whether you were actually carrying out such an arrest or whether you were violating the law in detaining another person. That’s what the jury will evaluate in your case. Additionally, the jury will be looking to see that your actions were reasonable in how you carried out the citizen’s arrest.

Why a citizen’s arrest could land you in jail

The difficulty with a citizen’s arrest is that it can be challenging for law enforcement to decipher what happened. Without proof of the original crime, it can look like you were simply detaining someone, which is unlawful.

And if you use a weapon to detain the other person, things could look even worse for you. Now your citizen’s arrest could appear to be an aggravated assault with a deadly weapon. Pause and think for a moment about what it will look like to law enforcement when they inevitably arrive on the scene.

Additionally, what might look like one type of crime to you that would be covered under the law for making a citizen’s arrest might not actually be the type of crime you think it is. You could end up detaining someone who authorities later find innocent or guilty of a crime not covered under the list above.

Now instead of helping law enforcement, you’ve made them turn their attention to you as a criminal suspect.

In reality, you must persuade a jury that your actions were justified if you break the law to thwart a crime. Your injuries may be the subject of criminal charges from the alleged thief, and a judge will determine whether the citizen’s arrest was reasonable. A charge of aggravated assault or assault with a dangerous weapon may be brought against you if you brandish a weapon or a knife while being arrested. Even worse, if they disarm you or have a weapon of their own, you put your own physical safety in danger.

Alternatives to making a citizen’s arrest

Instead of making a citizen’s arrest that could land you in the courtroom defending yourself, consider contacting law enforcement about what you’ve witnessed.

Take time to make note of the following information.

  • What took place? Be prepared to explain what you saw in detail.
  • Identifying information about the alleged criminal. Try to remember what they were wearing, the car they were driving, or any identifiable marks, like a tattoo.
  • Note the time of day and exact location of the crime. This will aid law enforcement in their investigation.

Instead of taking matters into your own hands, collect as much information as you can to help law enforcement catch the person responsible for the crime.

Criminal defense for Arizona law violations

While you might have had the best of intentions when it came to making a citizen’s arrest, you might still find yourself facing criminal charges for your actions. If you do, an Arizona criminal defense lawyer. We’ll provide an outstanding legal defense for you and work to prove your innocence.

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