citizen's arrest

Citizen’s arrest is an arrest made by a private citizen, in contrast to the typical arrest made by a police officer.

Citizen’s arrests are lawful in certain limited situations, such as when a private citizen personally witnesses a violent crime and then detains the perpetrator. For example, in tort law, a citizen's arrest is something that any person can do without being held liable for interfering with another person’s interests when that interference would otherwise constitute assaultbattery, and false imprisonment. This means that any person can physically detain another in order to arrest them, but state statutes define the limited circumstances in which this deprivation of liberty is allowed: 

  • In Texas, the citizen’s arrest statute states that any person may arrest someone that is committing a felony or an offense against the public peace in front of them. 
  • In California, the citizen’s arrest statute states that any person may arrest another: 
    • For a public offense committed or attempted in their presence.
    • When the person arrested has committed a felony, although not in their presence.
    • When a felony has been in fact committed, and he possesses reasonable cause for believing the person arrested to have committed it.

In general, the ability to perform a citizen’s arrest is the same for a regular person as it is for a police officer without a warrant

[Last updated in March of 2022 by the Wex Definitions Team]