On Citizen’s Arrest

The right and necessity of citizens to detain suspected or actual criminals has long been recognized under both civil and common law. For example, as mentioned, under a recent law in Canada, The Citizens’ Arrest and Self Defense Act (2012), the right of citizens to perform arrests and detain suspects on their own has been broadened to include not only people caught endangering the community or harming others, but anyone suspected of crimes, including known offenders.

Under the same common law custom of pro toto posse suo (see above) that empowers any group of adults to unite and stop those causing harm, the right of Citizens’ Arrest is not restricted or negated by a higher authority because of the recognition that any man or woman has the competence and obligation to see and directly halt wrongdoing in their community.

The procedure for performing a Citizens’ Arrest is as follows:

  1.  One must first either witness a crime, or recognize a suspected criminal or known offender, or even have a reasonable suspicion that such persons pose a danger to others. Such a suspicion must be based on probable cause and not simply a “feeling” or prejudice about someone.
  2. One must then inform the suspect or offender that he or she is being placed under Citizens’ Arrest under the right of Necessity to which obligates the arrester to detain the suspect or offender. The arresting party must state who they are and why they are exercising the power of arrest by stating the cause of action.
  3. The offender or suspect must then be detained and held for trial in a common !aw court, if they turn out to have committed a crime or pose a danger to others. The amount of force used in the arrest must be a reasonable response to the suspect’s behavior.

Citizens can normally hand over those they have detained to an authorized Common Law peace officer or a Sheriff of the court. The arresting parties must be willing to appear in court and give sworn testimony concerning their actions.

The crucial importance of the power of Citizens’ Arrest is that it trains and empowers citizens to take responsibility for policing their communities and for the law itself. It moves democracy from theory to action.