What is Citizen’s Arrest?
Citizen’s arrest is an act of apprehending a person for a crime committed in the presence of the citizen. This type of arrest applies in situations where a law enforcement officer is not present and the citizen acts with the reasonable belief that a crime has been committed or is about to be committed in their presence. Citizen’s arrests can be controversial, so it is important for citizens to understand their rights and responsibilities when making an arrest.
Under most state laws, individuals making citizen’s arrests are allowed to use reasonable force in order to detain or subdue suspects while making sure they remain safe themselves. It should be noted, however, that if the individual uses excessive force, they may be liable for civil damages or criminal penalties. In some states, such as California, individuals making a citizen’s arrest must also provide a warning before using force.
Furthermore, a citizen’s arrest can only be carried out to detain an alleged suspect of a crime and should not be done with the intention of punishing the individual. In addition, the individual must turn over the suspect to proper authorities within a reasonable amount of time. Failure to do so could result in criminal or civil liability for the individual performing the citizen’s arrest.
As with any situation involving attempting to make an arrest, even a citizen’s arrest can be dangerous. Thus, it is important to always consider personal safety first. Additionally, individuals should be mindful of laws related to the power of the citizen’s arrest and seek legal advice if necessary. Understanding these laws can help ensure that everyone involved is protected and treated fairly.
How Do Citizens Arrests Work in Arizona?
Under Arizona law, you can arrest a citizen when you witness a specific 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 provides for such a citizen’s arrest when you witness the following offenses committed.
- Aggravated assault
- Armed robbery
- Child molestation
- Sexual assault
- Sexual misconduct with a minor
For any other crimes 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, and the private person must have reason to believe law enforcement would detain the alleged criminal.
The issue in a citizen’s arrest is whether you were carrying out such an arrest or 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 detaining someone, which is unlawful.
And if you use a weapon to detain the other person, things could look even worse for you. 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 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. An account of aggravated assault or assault with a dangerous weapon may be brought against you if you brandish a gun or a knife while being arrested. Even worse, if they disarm you or have a gun of their own, you put your 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.
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.
Take time to make a note of the following information.
- What took place? Be prepared to explain what you saw in detail.
- They were identifying information about the alleged criminal. Try to remember what they were wearing, their car, 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.
Criminal defense for Arizona law violations
While you might have had the best intentions when making a citizen’s arrest, you might still face criminal charges for your actions. If you do, an Arizona criminal defense lawyer. We’ll provide an outstanding legal defense and work to prove your innocence.