According to the Louisiana Code of Criminal Procedure, a private person may make an arrest as long as the person being arrested has committed a felony under circumstances similar to those which would allow a police officer to make an arrest. The felony can be performed outside of the presence of the person making the arrest. These laws are different from state to state, but the idea is the same. Regardless, nobody should be allowed to perform a citizen’s arrest for any reason.
The thought of someone who is more than likely untrained and under-qualified placing a person under citizen’s arrest is comical. Someone who has committed a crime will probably not cooperate with a stranger trying to detain him or her. It is more accurate to see this person run and be especially against staying in one place with a stranger.
Allowing citizens to arrest one another is dangerous. Nobody knows what a stranger is willing to do, especially one who may feel belittled for being arrested by a fellow citizen. It seems like something more fit to be handled by a trained professional.
There is also the risk of superiority issues. If more people are aware of their right to arrest another citizen, some might take this right and run with it. Some may think themselves above the law because they can perform these acts, resulting in unlawful arrests and the belief that one can perform bodily harm in order to have someone detained. This would make law enforcement’s jobs even more difficult.
The concept of citizen’s arrest as a whole is a good one. Having the community help to find and detain a criminal saves the police a lot of time and energy. However, it’s one that only works in a utopian world. There isn’t a high probability of cooperation, and there is still a risk factor to both parties.
Citizen’s arrest has the potential to help people know what they can and cannot do. If people are more aware of the possibility that a fellow resident can legally arrest them, they may be more cautious of their actions. The idea of societal norms keeping people on their best behavior would be a lot more prominent.
The understanding of citizen’s arrest may also allow for people to be more familiar with their state laws. If a person is more aware of what can and can’t get them arrested, he or she may be more inclined to find out more about what is and isn’t acceptable from law enforcement as well.
We don’t hear many occasions of citizen’s arrest, and for good reason. States would do better by eliminating this law than expecting bystanders to take action against a criminal. Detainment should be left to those who have been trained to do so.
Chantelle Baker is a 21-year-old communication studies senior from Waipahu, Hawaii.