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What Is a Citizen's Arrest?

A citizen’s arrest is the right of a private citizen to detain a suspected criminal until the authorities arrive and assume custody of the criminal. The practice of citizen’s arrest has its roots in the Middle Ages. During this time, citizen’s arrests were a common practice. For example, shop owners can apprehend and detain shoplifters and thieves. They can then bring the offender to the local constable to stand trial. The improvements in law enforcement and the fact that criminals have begun to arm themselves has contributed to the waning of citizen’s arrests as a practice.

In today’s society, citizen’s arrests are being frowned upon by law enforcement agencies. The reason for this is the increased risk for the private citizen to get injured or even die. Law enforcement officers also contend that the response time of law enforcement personnel is quite fast that citizens need not endanger themselves with detaining criminals. But citizen’s arrests still have its uses in modern society. For example, detaining a criminal can give the authorities some more valuable time to reach the crime scene. One of the problems of a citizen’s arrest though is the large possibility of the citizen making a mistake in arresting someone.

One of the situations in which a citizen’s arrest is applicable is when the crime is actually happening. Catching a criminal while he’s in the act of doing it is a good example of the right circumstances of making a citizen’s arrest. Another situation is when a crime is about to happen. Detaining a criminal before he can actually do the crime is also a good application of a citizen’s arrest.

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