What Exactly is a Citizen's Arrest?

| by Mark Berman Opposing Views

As Opposing Views reported on Tuesday, actor Anthony Michael Hall was placed under citizen's arrest in Los Angeles by a neighbor for disturbing the peace. The real police later charged and released him. We hear about it all the time, but what exactly is a citizen's arrest?

According to a Wikipedia entry, the practice dates back to medieval Britain and English common law when local police encouraged people to help apprehend law breakers. The laws of many nations allow for some sort of citizen's arrest, including the United States.

Every state in the U.S. has statutes for citizen's arrest except for North Carolina. The laws allow people to detain a suspect if they witness him or her committing a felony, or if police specifically ask them to help find the suspect. Laws vary from state to state regarding misdemeanors.

People making a citizen's arrest do not have to read the suspect they are detaining their Miranda Rights. That only goes into effect if a suspect is being questioned and detained simultaneously, reports WikiHow. Citizen's arrest does not give people the right to question or search a suspect, or seize evidence.

While a suspect placed under citizen's arrest has to wait for police arrive, many countries do not allow people to lock-up the suspect. As far as physical force, a person can only use enough to restrain a suspect. A person must be careful, though -- excessive force can open a person up to legal liabilities.

And what if a suspect runs away? Well, that means the citizen's arrest has not been completed.

But don't be a hero. If you see that a suspect is armed, don't interfere. Just call police and let the professionals handle it.