Can You Make a Citizen’s Arrest in California

Making a Citizen’s Arrest in California

In most situations, an arrest made without an arrest warrant for a misdemeanor offense that was not committed in the presence of police is unlawful and a violation of the Penal Code and the 4th Amendment. (See P.C. 836). Felony arrests are not subject to this rule.

However, there are a few situations where such an arrest could be lawful despite the above being true. For instance: misdemeanor Domestic Violence (see P.C. 836(d)), misdemeanor Battery on Emergency Personnel (see P.C. 836.1), certain misdemeanor DUI arrests (See V.C. 40300.5), and Citizens’ Arrests (see Penal Code 837) all do not require an arrest warrant or that the offense had been committed in the presence of police in order to be lawful.

When a misdemeanor is committed in the presence of a person who is not a police officer, an arrest by arrest warrant or a Citizen’s Arrest is likely the only way to lawfully arrest the individual.

When a person commits a petty theft against a store, and the store employee detains the person in the store, calls the police, and the police come and arrest the person, that is an example of a Citizen’s Arrest.

Pursuant to Penal Code 837, and since 1872, a private person may arrest another:

  1. For a public offense committed or attempted in his presence.
  2. When the person arrested commits a felony, although not in his presence.
  3. When a felony has been in fact committed, and he possesses reasonable cause the person arrested to have committed it.

An example of a California misdemeanor is as follows:

Petty Theft occurs when the alleged property taken is valued at $950 or less. This usually occurs in a store where store security approaches a suspect after they have exited the store and asks them to come inside to the security office. This is a Citizen’s Arrest.

Normally security will call local law enforcement, and the police have an option whether they issue a citation with a promise to appear in court or take you to jail, where you will be fingerprinted, photographed, and released thereafter with a court date and a promise to appear in court.

An example of a felony may be vandalism which could be a misdemeanor or a felony depending on the circumstances and the value of the property vandalized.

If a citizen chooses to arrest someone, he/she could either make an arrest on his/her own or legally ask for assistance from others to make an arrest. If possible, the best practice is to: call 911; tell the dispatcher you wish to make a citizen’s arrest; advise them of the reasons for the arrest; and request the assistance of a police officer. A police officer may be able to effectuate the arrest for you physically.

It is important for a citizen to not only report the offense to 911 but also personally speak with the officer when they arrive, identify the perpetrator to the police officer, and tell the officer they wish to make a Citizen’s Arrest.

After calling 911, the following procedures a person must adhere to are recommended by California courts:

  • The citizen should inform the individuals about the arrest;
  • The citizen should inform the individual about the reason for the arrest;
  • The citizen should inform the individual that he/she has the power to make an arrest, if possible; and,
  • If applicable, the citizen should tell the perpetrator that law enforcement officials have been notified.

A citizen should attempt to not use force when arresting another person or reduce the amount of force used. If an excessive or unwarranted amount of force is used to make an arrest, a citizen could be held criminally and civilly liable.

A citizen can use reasonable force to arrest a perpetrator. Whether or not the amount of force used is “reasonable” is a determination based upon all of the facts in a given case.

Citizens should be mindful of his/her safety, as well as the safety of the person being arrested.

If a citizen or the police arrested you, there are many reasons why the arrest may have been unlawful. An unlawful arrest may require suppression of evidence or dismissal of your case.

California Citizen’s Arrest FAQ

n California, the rules governing citizen’s arrests are strict, with specific requirements and limitations to avoid abuse and protect individual rights.

What is a citizen’s arrest?

A citizen’s arrest is made by someone who is not a law enforcement officer but who has witnessed a crime or has reasonable grounds to believe that a crime has been committed. This provision is outlined in California law and allows anyone to detain an individual who has committed a crime until law enforcement arrives. However, there are a few important things to remember before making a citizen’s arrest.

The person making the arrest must witness the crime or have reasonable grounds to believe that a crime has been committed. This means a person cannot arrest a citizen based on hearsay or suspicion alone.

The person making the arrest must use only reasonable force. This means that force should only be used to the extent necessary to detain the individual until law enforcement arrives and should not be used as a form of punishment.

A citizen’s arrest can be risky, and there is a potential for harm to both the person making the arrest and the individual being detained. In some cases, the individual being detained may resist or become violent. It is important to prioritize personal safety in any situation and to call law enforcement if there is any concern about danger or harm.

Who can make a citizen’s arrest in California?

In California, a citizen’s arrest can be made by anyone who witnesses a misdemeanor, a felony, or a breach of the peace. The person making the arrest must have probable cause to believe that the person arrested has committed a crime.

It’s important to note that California law requires using reasonable force when making a citizen’s arrest. This means that excessive force should be avoided, and the individual making the arrest should use only as much force as is necessary to restrain the suspect until law enforcement arrives.

It’s also worth mentioning that a citizen’s arrest in California can only be made for offenses committed in the presence of the person making the arrest. If the offense was not witnessed by the person making the arrest, they cannot make a citizen’s arrest.

Additionally, citizens who make an arrest must immediately call the police and turn the suspect over to law enforcement. They cannot detain the suspect for an extended period of time or take them to another location for questioning.

What crimes can be the basis for a citizen’s arrest?

In California, a citizen’s arrest is allowed for any public offense that involves a “breach of peace” or a felony. A breach of peace includes crimes such as disturbing the peace, public intoxication, and vandalism. A felony is a more serious crime punishable by imprisonment for more than one year. Felonies include robbery, burglary, and assault with a deadly weapon.

It’s important to note that a citizen’s arrest can only be made if the crime is committed in the presence of the person making the arrest. In other words, if you witness someone commit a crime, you may have the right to make a citizen’s arrest. However, you cannot make a citizen’s arrest if the crime has already been committed and the perpetrator is no longer on the scene.

A citizen’s arrest should only be made if it is necessary to prevent the suspect from escaping or causing harm to others. If the situation does not require immediate action, it is best to contact law enforcement and let them handle it. Making a citizen’s arrest can be dangerous and should only be done as a last resort when no other option is available.

How to make a citizen’s arrest in California?

In California, a citizen’s arrest is allowed under certain circumstances. To be able to make a citizen’s arrest, you must have witnessed the crime being committed firsthand. The crime must also be a misdemeanor or a felony, and you must have reasonable cause to believe that the person you are arresting committed the crime.

Before making an arrest, you should inform the person that you are making a citizen’s arrest and state why you are doing so. You must also call the police immediately after making the arrest.

What are the rights of the person being arrested?

When a citizen arrests someone in California, it’s important to know the rights of the person being arrested. The person being arrested has the right to know why they are being arrested, and they have the right to remain silent. Anything they say can be used against them in court. They also have the right to an attorney. It’s important for the arresting citizen to inform the person being arrested of these rights.

If the person being arrested is injured during the arrest, they have the right to receive medical attention. It’s the responsibility of the arresting citizen to ensure the safety and well-being of the person being arrested until law enforcement arrives.

It’s also important to note that the arrested person has the right to resist an unlawful arrest. However, if the arrest is lawful, resisting arrest is a crime and can result in additional charges.

What are the potential consequences of making an unlawful citizen’s arrest?

Making an unlawful citizen’s arrest in California can have serious consequences. First and foremost, you can be liable for false imprisonment, which is a criminal offense. False imprisonment is the unlawful restraint of another person’s freedom of movement. If you detain someone without legal authority, you have committed false imprisonment.

In addition to criminal charges, you may face civil liability if the detained person decides to sue you. They may claim damages for any harm they suffered due to the unlawful arrest, including physical harm, emotional distress, and loss of income.

It’s important to note that even if you had good intentions, such as trying to prevent a crime from occurring, it does not give you the right to make a citizen’s arrest. In California, citizen arrests are only legal in specific circumstances, and even then, there are strict limitations on what you can and cannot do.

Alternatives to a Citizen’s Arrest in California

While citizen’s arrests are allowed under certain circumstances in California, they should not be taken lightly. It’s important to consider alternative options before taking any action that could endanger you or others. Here are some alternatives to consider:

  1. Call the police: In most situations, it’s best to call the police and let them handle the situation. They are trained professionals and have the legal authority to detain individuals.
  2. Provide information: If you witness a crime but are uncomfortable making an arrest, you can still provide valuable information to the police. Take note of any details, such as the suspect’s appearance, vehicle information, or location.
  3. Document the situation: Consider taking photos or videos if you have a smartphone. This can provide valuable evidence for the police and may help with any investigations.
  4. Seek help from others: If you feel unsafe or unsure about the situation, seek help from others nearby. There is safety in numbers, and others may be able to provide assistance or call the police.

Summary of key takeaways

In conclusion, citizen’s arrest is a legal concept in California that allows individuals to arrest someone who has committed a crime. However, it is important to understand the limitations and requirements of citizen’s arrest as outlined in California law.
Some key takeaways from this article include:

  • Citizen’s arrest can only be made for certain crimes, such as felonies and breaches of the peace.
  • The person making the arrest must witness the crime or have probable cause to believe that the crime was committed.
  • Using force in making a citizen’s arrest should be reasonable and necessary.
  • Turning the arrested person over to law enforcement as soon as possible is important.

Overall, citizen’s arrest can be a powerful tool in protecting yourself and your community from criminal activity. Still, it is important to use it responsibly and within the bounds of the law. By understanding the legal requirements and limitations of citizen’s arrest, you can help keep yourself and your community safe.

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