What is a citizen's arrest? Does anybody ever use it?

We've all seen the scene. A group of stalwart individuals nabs an alleged evildoer, holding him until the cops arrive to cart the perp off to jail. That, in a movie nutshell, is a citizen's arrest.

More formally known as ORS 133.225, the law allows a private person to arrest another for a crime committed in his presence, as long as he has probable cause to believe that person is the culprit.

"Basically, you have the same authority (to arrest) that I do, it's just easier for me because I've got the tools to get people to court," says Lt. Brian Powers of the Oregon State Police. "You've got to be careful, though. We've got insurance that covers us. You don't."

The devil is in the details, as usual.

If you're thinking of performing a citizen's arrest, you'd better brush up on your criminal codes because you'll need to know the difference between a crime and a violation, says Jackson County District Attorney Mark Huddleston.

In other words, the statute does NOT say that Citizen A can lawfully arrest Citizen B merely because "B" is annoying "A." Performing a citizen's arrest on someone for committing a minor offense could result in a false arrest charge, says Huddleston. The crime, either a misdemeanor or a felony, must be one which could incur potential jail time — such as drunken driving.

"An off-duty officer, acting as a citizen in approaching and detaining a defendant when she stopped her car after having been observed driving erratically, could have arrested the defendant for driving under the influence of intoxicants and was not required to follow any set procedures in initiating law enforcement action," Huddleston says. However, someone who is simply driving a few miles over the speed limit can be given a citation by a law enforcement officer, but should not be arrested, he says.

Citizens can report speeders to OSP, and their testimony might result in a ticket for the offender, Powers says.

A storekeeper, upon seeing what appears to be commission of a crime, may reasonably pursue the supposed thief and place him under arrest.

"Normally stores don't want anybody laying hands on someone because of the civil liabilities issues," Powers says.

Some of the bigger stores have security personnel who handcuff suspected shoplifters to restrain them, Powers says.

Assault can take things in another direction.

"A person guilty of an assault with a dangerous weapon may be arrested by a private person, although the latter did not see the offense committed," Huddleston says.

TV reality star Duane "Dog" Chapman and two co-stars on his show were arrested in Hawaii on charges of illegal detention and conspiracy in the bounty hunters' capture of a cosmetics company heir, MSNBC reported.

The charges, which were later resolved, stemmed from Chapman's capture of Max Factor heir Andrew Luster on June 18, 2003, in Puerto Vallarta, Mexico.

Chapman's capture of Luster, who had fled the country while on trial on charges he raped three women, catapulted the beefy bounty hunter to fame and led to the reality series on A&E, the MSNBC article said.

Oregonians don't have to worry about getting cuffed by a local "Dog," says Powers.

"We don't have bounty hunters or bail bondsmen in the state of Oregon," Powers says.

The state acts as a bondsman, requiring suspected offenders to post 10 percent of bail to be released from jail, Huddleston says.

The Oregon Court of Appeals has ruled that out-of-state bondsmen have no authority within the state, says Huddleston.

Reader Reaction
We reserve the right to remove any content at any time from this Community, including without limitation if it violates the Community Rules. We ask that you report content that you in good faith believe violates the above rules by clicking the Flag link next to the offending comment or fill out this form. New comments are only accepted for two weeks from the date of publication.