Daily Archives: January 16, 2010

A citizen’s arrest

As is the norm, as I was leaving work on Friday I got caught in a long meandering conversation with co-workers that ended with this question: “Is a citizen’s arrest legal in CT?”

As is my wont, I was immediately contrarian and emphatically said “No!” As often happens in such situations, I was not even wrong.

I should’ve looked at C.G.S. 53a-22(f) before opening my gab. This statute provides:

(f) A private person acting on his or her own account is justified in using reasonable physical force upon another person when and to the extent that he or she reasonably believes such to be necessary to effect an arrest or to prevent the escape from custody of an arrested person whom he or she reasonably believes to have committed an offense and who in fact has committed such offense; but he or she is not justified in using deadly physical force in such circumstances, except in defense of person as prescribed in section 53a-19.

The implication thus is that a private person has the authority to effect an arrest. In addition, in CT, a private citizen need not be present when the felony is committed in order to effectuate a citizen’s arrest. In State v. Smith, the Appellate Court considered this question:

According to the plain language of the statute, a private citizen may use reasonable force in arresting an individual whom he reasonably believes has committed an offense. If the arrested individual did not commit an offense, however, regardless of the reasonableness of the private citizen’s belief, the latter is not justified in making a citizen’s arrest. There is no requirement in ยง 53a-22 that the citizen making the arrest must also have witnessed the commission of the offense or have come upon the scene shortly after its occurrence, 16 nor has our Supreme Court put such a gloss on the statute.

Perhaps you will be just as surprised as I was to also learn that all but one state in these United States provides for a citizen’s arrest (the lone dissenter being North Carolina).

So there you have it. Go forth and arrest.