Are Citizen’s Arrests a Real Thing?
Citizen’s arrests were once comedic fodder for television programs like The Andy Griffith Show. However, the real-world consequences of an alleged “citizen’s arrest” are far from a laughing matter. In Georgia, at the time of this writing, three men are facing murder charges in the shooting death of another man in a citizen’s arrest gone wrong. The defendants allege that they were executing a “citizen’s arrest” against the other man since they thought he resembled a burglary suspect. After chasing him down in their truck, they claim they then shot the suspect in self-defense.
Massachusetts Citizen’s Arrest Law
Massachusetts allows a private citizen to arrest another in cases where the other person “has in fact committed” a felony.
You must see the crime occur and have absolute knowledge that the infraction is a felony. If the person arrested is not then proven in a court of law to have committed a felony, the person doing the arresting is liable for criminal and civil penalties stemming from false arrest or false imprisonment.
Requirements For Citizen’s Arrest in Massachusetts
Say you don’t like your neighbor and think she is a crook. Say you think she is selling drugs out of her garage, so you tackle her, bundle her into your car, and drive her to the station.
Odds are that you will be the one arrested for kidnapping. You did not see, definitely, a felony being committed. Even if your neighbor was selling drugs, the quantities might be so low that it is only a misdemeanor offense. Alternatively, your interference in the case may make it impossible to prosecute your neighbor because your unlawful arrest has made incriminating evidence inadmissible.
All you will get out of this are possible criminal charges, a likely lawsuit, and the undying hatred of your neighbor.
Leave the Law to the Professionals
If you witness criminal activity in progress, call the police. If you believe you have evidence relating to a past crime, call the police or your local tip hotline. Leave law enforcement to the professionals. If you yourself are facing criminal charges, our professionals can help you.