What is a Citizen Arrest and What Should You Know about Being Arrested
In a nutshell, a citizen’s arrest is an arrest which is performed by a person who is not a sworn law-enforcement official. There’s much more to it than that. In places where common law exists, the practice can be traced back to medieval England. In English common law, sheriff’s used to encouraging citizens to help apprehend law breakers.
The name might fool you into thinking that you need to be a citizen to apprehend a lawbreaker. However, in many countries, the person who’s arresting the lawbreaker does not need to be a citizen of the country in which they are acting. They are designated as a person with arrest powers.
If you’re thinking about donning a cape and becoming a vigilante, you should know that this law isn’t a law for vigilantes. It is almost always better to leave the arresting to the professionals. However, the law does recognize that there are some cases where it isn’t possible to leave it to the professionals.
You must remember a couple of different things when making a citizen’s arrest. An arrest of this nature can only be made if it is not reasonably practicable for a police constable to make the arrest. The person making the arrest should also have reasonable grounds to believe that an arrest of this nature is necessary to stop the person being arrested from a couple of things. They are –
- Causing physical injury to himself/herself or anyone else.
- I am suffering from a physical injury.
- It is damaging or causing loss of property.
- They are leaving the scene before a constable can assume responsibility for him/her.
When a citizen performs an arrest, he/she should tell the subject why they are being arrested and which offense is believed to have been committed. A civilian also has a broader common law power of arrest where there is a breach of the peace which when looked at on its own is not considered a crime.
A civilian can perform an arrest in these circumstances.
- If a breach of the peace has happened or will happen in his/her presence.
- If the person performing the arrest has reason to believe that a breach will happen in the immediate future by the person arrested.
- If a breach of the peace has been committed or the person affecting the arrest believes that a breach of the peace has happened and that another breach is threatened.
On a practical level, it is better to avoid getting involved unless the situation demands it. If you do intervene, tread carefully. You must intervene respectfully and with reason as well as a proportionate use of force after checking thoroughly that there is no possibility of a police officer stepping in. It is always better to have the police involved and make sure that anyone arrested is dropped off to the police as quickly as possible.
What should I know about being arrested?
It’s not fun to be arrested. However, it does happen. Let's look at a couple of things you should know if you’re ever arrested.
- Don’t consent to a search
- Don’t resist arrest
- If you’re arrested, stay silent and ask for a lawyer
- You will be eligible for a lawyer even if you don’t already have one
- As soon as you’re released, schedule a meeting with your lawyer
- Don’t try to convince the officer that you’re innocent
When you’re arrested, the most important thing is to stay silent. If the police carry enough evidence to arrest you, they will. If they don’t have enough evidence, you might give them just enough to arrest you.