California allows people to make a citizen’s arrest in some cases. Penal Code 837 details the situations in which someone can carry out a citizen’s arrest. Generally, citizens can arrest other people for misdemeanors or felonies.
However, it is critical to exercise caution when performing a citizen’s arrest. Mistaken or improper arrests can lead to criminal charges against you. Contact the Simmrin Law Group if you have concerns about a citizen’s arrest you made.
Citizen’s Arrests in California
Citizens are sometimes allowed to arrest one another in California. The state permits these arrests only in certain situations. The regulations for making an arrest vary based upon whether the underlying crime was a misdemeanor or a felony.
Citizen’s Arrests for Misdemeanors
Individuals can only make an arrest for a misdemeanor if someone commits, or tries to commit, a crime in front of them.
Misdemeanor offenses are not as serious as felonies in California. Individuals can face misdemeanor charges for things like petty theft or even prostitution.
Citizen’s Arrests for Felonies
Individuals have more leeway when making a citizen’s arrest for a felony. In this case, an arrest can be made if someone knows or has reason to believe that a felony is committed. The arresting party does not actually have to witness the offense.
Felonies are the most serious criminal offenses in California. Both rape and murder are often prosecuted as felonies in California. PC 837 allows someone to carry out a citizen’s arrest alone. However, individuals may also ask for help in making a citizen’s arrest.
Steps to Carry out a Citizen’s Arrest
There are procedures that should be followed when making a citizen’s arrest. Individuals who skip certain steps could face civil or criminal charges after the arrest. While making a citizen’s arrest, individuals need to:
- Tell the individual they are being arrested
- Explain why the arrest occurred
- Inform the accused that the police were called
The police should be informed before making a citizen’s arrest. Civilians are not allowed to keep other people in custody for long periods of time. The suspect must be handed over to police custody after a citizen’s arrest is made.
Additionally, it is important to focus on the authority used to make a citizen’s arrest. Technically, PC 837 grants citizens in California the right to make these arrests. Finally, make sure to move quickly, if you decide to make a citizen’s arrest. Waiting for too long after a crime occurs to make a citizen’s arrest can void your right to do so.
The Simmrin Law Group can help you fight back against any charges you may have incurred for making a citizen’s arrest.
Safety Issues During a Citizen’s Arrest
There are some risks associated with making a citizen’s arrest here in California. Arresting another person could put you or other people in danger. In some cases, insufficient care for the suspect could even lead to legal issues for you after an arrest. For this reason, make sure not to use force or behave recklessly when making an arrest.
Do Not Use Force
Using force during a citizen’s arrest can escalate the situation. Individuals who use too much force could end up injuring the person they are trying to arrest. This action could lead to criminal charges in court. The offense can be more serious if it turns out the arrest was unlawful.
Do Not Behave Recklessly
It is important to focus on your own safety and well-being during a citizen’s arrest. You also need to consider the safety of those around you. This means you should not engage in, for example, a dangerous chase. You should also refrain from frisking the person you are trying to arrest.
If You Make a False Arrest
When making a citizen’s arrest of someone who was not guilty of committing a crime, you could face a false arrest charge. However, there are exceptions that can protect you from prosecution.
If you arrest someone for a felony they did not commit, you are protected as long as certain conditions apply. The first condition is that you must have had reasonable suspicion that they were guilty of committing a felony. Additionally, a felony must have occurred.
For example, if you have a reasonable suspicion to believe that someone is guilty of kidnapping, you may be able to make a citizen’s arrest. However, if it turns out that the supposed kidnapping victim was simply missing rather than kidnapped, you could find yourself facing prosecution for making a false arrest.
If You Make a Citizen’s Arrest for the Wrong Crime
A citizen’s arrest is still valid, even if the person making the arrest believes that suspect to be guilty of a different crime from the one they actually committed. As long as the person placed under arrest committed a crime, then the arrest is lawful.
As long as the citizen making the arrest knows enough to know that they witnessed a crime, the particulars are not too important. Most people do not have extensive knowledge about the penal system and how some crimes are categorized. For example, it is common for people to confuse assault and battery as they are often mentioned together despite being separate crimes.
Get Legal Help Quickly
As a civilian, you are not legally allowed to detain other people for long periods of time. Attempting to do this could lead to kidnapping or battery charges. For this reason, make sure you call the authorities right away and provide them with information about where you are and what you are doing.
If accused of acting with impropriety during an arrest, reach out to a lawyer for help.
Speak to a Lawyer After Making a Citizen’s Arrest
Did you make a citizen’s arrest under the authority of Penal Code 837? If you face criminal charges after the arrest, you can contact us for help. Allow the Simmrin Law Group to assess your legal situation right now. Just contact our criminal defense lawyers in Los Angeles. We will review your case with a free consultation.
Call us today or fill out our online contact form.