Stop, This Is a Citizen’s Arrest!…Wait, Can I Still Do That?

Stop, This Is a Citizen’s Arrest!…Wait, Can I Still Do That?

While everyone knows that the police make arrests, not everyone knows that the average citizen has that authority as well. The authority to allow a non-law enforcement member of the community to make an arrest usually comes from state law, and the specifics of the law and what is permitted vary from state to state. In Indiana, Indiana Code 35-33-1-4 allows any person to arrest another person if: (1) the other person committed a felony in his presence; (2) a felony has been committed and the person has probable cause to believe that the other person committed that felony; or (3) a misdemeanor “involving a breach of peace is being committed in his presence and the arrest is necessary to prevent the continuance of the breach of peace.” Further, under Indiana Code 35-33-1-4, once an arrest is made, the person making the citizen’s arrest in Indiana must “as soon as practical, notify a law enforcement officer and deliver custody of the person arrested to a law enforcement officer.”

Now, before anyone goes out with the aim of arresting their neighbor because their neighbor’s dog won’t stop barking or a car cut them off in traffic, there are some serious considerations that any one making a citizen’s arrest in Indiana should consider.

  1. First, the offense that is being committed must be a felony or a qualifying misdemeanor. Traffic infractions, ordinance violations, or non-peace-breaching misdemeanors do not qualify.
  2. Second, often times force is required when making an arrest; the need for this can increase when the arrest involves one citizen arresting another. Under law, there are certain rules that govern how much force can be used to arrest someone and under what circumstances. While law enforcement officers receive training in this, most of the population does not.
  3. Third, a person who is making a citizen’s arrest in Indiana is not free from legal liability if he makes such an arrest. An arresting person can be sued and can be held legally responsible if he made an improper arrest. Also, the individual will likely have to defend against that lawsuit himself; whereas, police officers, are generally represented by either by their department, by the city or county, or by an insurance company.

In general, individuals in Indiana do have the right to make a citizen’s arrest, however, anyone thinking about doing so should be mindful of all the different laws that come into play. And, the individual should fully understand the ramifications of what could happen if a citizen’s arrest is incorrectly made. As a result of these considerations, and more, citizen arrests in Indiana are incredibly rare and are generally disfavored by law enforcement.

If you or a loved one have been subject to an arrest of any kind, contact the attorneys of Keffer Hirschauer LLP today. We stand ready to provide our clients with trusted representation and accurate information regarding the law and its application to their individual case. Act now and contact us today at 1-800-NOT-GUILTY or (317) 857-0160.

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