Each state, with the exception of North Carolina, permits citizen arrests if the commission of a felony is witnessed by the arresting citizen, or when a citizen is asked to assist in the apprehension of a suspect by police. The application of state laws varies widely with respect to misdemeanors, breaches of the peace, and felonies not witnessed by the arresting party. For example, Arizona law allows a citizen’s arrest if the arrestor has personally witnessed the offense occurring.
American citizens do not carry the authority or enjoy the legal protections held by police officers, and are held to the principle of strict liability before the courts of civil and criminal law including, but not limited to, any infringement of another’s rights. Nonetheless many citizens’ arrests are popular news stories.
Though North Carolina General Statutes have no provision for citizens’ arrests, detention by private persons is permitted and applies to both private citizens and police officers outside their jurisdiction. Detention is permitted where probable cause exists that one has committed a felony, breach of peace, physical injury to another person, or theft or destruction of property. Detention is different from an arrest in that in a detention the detainee may not be transported without consent.
Common Law enables anyone in the US to arrest another where the accuser demonstrates a valid cause of action against the accused. While the arrest by a commoner has its roots in British Common Law, the authority of arrest by anyone was originally absorbed into American Law via the strict construction found in American Organic Laws. as strictly construed in the Declaration of Independence, where it states “all men are created equal” and “That to secure these rights, Governments are instituted among Men, deriving their just powers from the consent of the governed”. American Organic Laws strictly construct American form of common law to define the characteristics of common law both inherited and repugnant to American Law. The concepts in law derive precedence from throughout British common law dating back to the Magna Carta. Strict constructions of American law provide the foundational bridge concepts that absorbed and expanded the concept of equal authority of the American individual to any man or woman accepting liability for an accusation against another.
Statutes and codes strictly construct lawful procedures for once the powers of justice, or just powers, have been consented to, or authorized, by the governed through the process of making an accusation and facing the accused with the accusation in a Court of Law. In California, the following Penal code sections provide strict construction for arrests by anyone:
837. A private person may arrest another:
For a public offense committed or attempted in his presence. When the person arrested has committed a felony, although not in his presence. When a felony has been in fact committed, and he has reasonable cause for believing the person arrested to have committed it.
839. Any person making an arrest may orally summon as many persons as he deems necessary to aid him therein.
841. The person making the arrest must inform the person to be arrested of the intention to arrest him, of the cause of the arrest, and the authority to make it, except when the person making the arrest has reasonable cause to believe that the person to be arrested is actually engaged in the commission of or an attempt to commit an offense, or the person to be arrested is pursued immediately after its commission, or after an escape. The person making the arrest must, on request of the person he is arresting, inform the latter of the offense for which he is being arrested.
844. To make an arrest, a private person, if the offense is a felony, and in all cases a peace officer, may break open the door or window of the house in which the person to be arrested is, or in which they have reasonable grounds for believing the person to be, after having demanded admittance and explained the purpose for which admittance is desired.
845. Any person who has lawfully entered a house for the purpose of making an arrest, may break open the door or window thereof if detained therein, when necessary for the purpose of liberating himself, and an officer may do the same, when necessary for the purpose of liberating a person who, acting in his aid, lawfully entered for the purpose of making an arrest, and is detained therein.
846. Any person making an arrest may take from the person arrested all offensive weapons which he may have about his person, and must deliver them to the magistrate before whom he is taken.
847. (a) A private person who has arrested another for the commission of a public offense must, without unnecessary delay, take the person arrested before a magistrate, or deliver him or her to a peace officer. (b) There shall be no civil liability on the part of, and no cause of action shall arise against, any peace officer or federal criminal investigator or law enforcement officer described in subdivision (a) or (d) of Section 830.8, acting within the scope of his or her authority, for false arrest or false imprisonment arising out of any arrest under any of the following circumstances:(1) The arrest was lawful, or the peace officer, at the time of the arrest, had reasonable cause to believe the arrest was lawful.(2) The arrest was made pursuant to a charge made, upon reasonable cause, of the commission of a felony by the person to be arrested.(3) The arrest was made pursuant to the requirements of Section 142, 837, 838, or 839.
California code demonstrates, through its strict construction, that anyone can arrest any other regardless of being in the capacity of Citizenship, Law enforcement or any other official capacity. It also reinforces the Common Law requirement of disclosing the nature and cause of the Action being brought against the accused which is inherent to the common law understanding of one’s right to face one’s accuser and is strictly construed in the Confrontation Clause of the Sixth Amendment to the United States Constitution. Disclosure of the nature and cause of action against the accused, i.e. the one arrested, is a requirement that is designed to protect the accused from false arrest and is a required duty by government officials as mandated by the People of United States in the 6th amendment of the US Constitution as an unalienable protection of law. The California Code sections above also demonstrates how civil liability is applicable to the accuser for actual arrests and is limited for peace officers only when a lawful arrest or at least the belief that a lawful arrest was made.
While strict construction through codes and statutes provides formalities of procedure and interpretation regarding certain circumstances and duties, the natural right of one to bring another to justice for harm intentionally committed demonstrating mens rea enables anyone for any reason, through common law, to submit a valid cause of action to a magistrate, judge or in some cases a Grand Jury against the accused to seek their arrest. The valid cause of action by an accuser with demonstrable harm and mens rea committed by the accused is the common law requirement for anyone to arrest or seek justice against another. Common law, derived from natural law, expressly deals with the organic nature of crime and covers everything that is not strictly codified and cited in the cause of action by the accuser thereby leaving statutes and codes a subset of the common law and thus not limiting arrests or criminal actions to what is strictly defined in code. For example in California, the organic rules of common law has no application to penal code procedures as stated in section 4. “The rule of the common law, that penal statutes are to be strictly construed, has no application to this Code.”. This reinforces the all encompassing organic nature of common law that expands beyond the confines of narrowly constructed codes and statutes and subjects the interpretation of innocence or guilt of the accused to the decision of the Jury while the valid cause of action is what determines if sufficient evidence exists to bring the accused before the Jury in a Criminal Trial. If a Grand Jury is convened to review the cause of action then the Grand Jury can issue an indictment to bring the criminal action against the accused. The valid cause of action is what enables both protections from false prosecutions and also provides a record of facts for determining the level of liability one may hold for bringing an action against someone found innocent of alleged crimes.