Many may not know that an average citizen is empowered with detaining another by what is known as a citizen's arrest. Citizen's arrests can be helpful to law enforcement and they may be legal in some cases. This type of situation might also mean that another person's Constitutional rights have been placed in jeopardy and that an unlawful detainment took place. To help you sort out this confusing issue that combines criminal law with personal injury issues, read on.
Citizen's Arrest a Misnomer
There is actually no law on the books referring to citizen's arrests anymore. A legal arrest can only be accomplished by law enforcement personnel. That being said, people outside of law enforcement can take actions to detain someone in some cases if they have a very strong belief that a crime is about to be committed or has already been committed. Law enforcement personnel tend to discourage people from getting themselves involved in criminal matters for the following reasons:
- Most regular citizens don't have enough knowledge of the law to ascertain whether or not a crime of the magnitude that would prompt an arrest has been committed. For example, the only crimes that come under the auspices of a citizen's arrest are extremely serious ones like murder, rape, and kidnapping. In other words, felonies. Needless to say, most ordinary citizens don't readily recognize the difference in a felony and a misdemeanor.
- When a citizen takes action against someone, there is always a chance for injury to come to that citizen as the result. In addition, the target of the citizen's arrest could be physically harmed as well. Using deadly force is seldom allowed regardless of the circumstances of the arrest. That places the citizen who acted in jeopardy of being charged with several crimes, from unlawful imprisonment to assault and battery.
- Citizens that act on their own may actually do more harm than good. For example, they could inadvertently trample and damage a crime scene or ruin an undercover operation.
- Citizens that take matters into their own hands are preventing law enforcement from doing the job they are meant to do. A report to the police and following procedures should be sufficient for most citizens.
When You are the Target
If you have been detained or assaulted by an unlawful and unwarranted citizen's arrest, you may be able to take action beyond knowing the subject was arrested and charged with a crime. The law, both civil and criminal, is meant to protect innocent victims from vigilantism. You could take legal action against the perpetrator and be awarded for a variety of damages from medical expenses and pain and suffering to lost wages and legal fees.
Speak to a personal injury lawyer about the damages you could be owed today.