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What is a citizen supposed to do when there is no policeman in sight and they witness a crime? In most cases it is best to observe the situation and make notes of such things as license plate numbers, height, hair color, eye color, identifying scars, car make and model. But as a citizen if you can discern that intervening will put you in no immediate danger, you have the right to make a citizens arrest.

When you decide to make a citizens arrest you will need to extremely careful. There is always a risk of being hurt if the suspect is armed or dangerous, but you can be sued if you make any mistakes. When you see a felony in progress, which is serious crime that usually involves violence, or a suspect fleeing from this type of crime you are entitled to make a citizens arrest. You will need to check with your local police department or district attorney to find out if you can make this type of arrest when the crime is a misdemeanor. A misdemeanor is a minor crime such as vandalism. In most cases people make citizens arrest for such crimes as shoplifting. When you only think that someone has committed a crime do not attempt to make an arrest. In this case you should call the police immediately and give them the details. It is very important to remember that if the suspect has committed no crime they can sue you for false arrest or false imprisonment. It is not necessary to have a warrant to make an arrest since, of course, you would have no time to get one. But if you plan to make an arrest it should be made during or immediately following the crime or it will be considered illegal.

Approach the person you are arresting and tell them you are making a citizens arrest for the crime you have seen them commit. Also tell them that you are taking them to the nearest police officer. If you need help containing the person you are arresting ask bystanders. When a bystander helps be sure to get their name and address in case a witness is needed later. In all cases of citizen’s arrest the suspect can refuse your request or resist your efforts. When the suspect uses force of any kind, respond only with reasonable force that is needed to subdue him. If you use any type of violence or strike the suspect in any way you could face charges and a civil lawsuit for assault. Immediately following your arrest of a suspect you should hand him over to the police. You have no rights to question or search a suspect, but after he is in police custody be sure you are available so you can answer the questions police officers will have for you concerning the crime. There are some situations in which you are not required by law to make a citizens arrest. But in a case where a police officer ask you to help in the apprehension of a suspect and you refuse, you can be subject to criminal prosecution.