Private citizens in Arizona can legally detain criminal suspects in certain situations. To describe a citizen's arrest, Arizona law uses the term “arrest by private person.” The legal right to detain potential criminals comes with big responsibilities, spelled out in Arizona laws of arrest. People who perform them illegally face civil and criminal consequences. Worse, attempting a citizen’s arrest can be dangerous.
When Can You Make a Citizen's Arrest in Arizona?
When it comes to making a citizen’s arrest, Arizona law protects the rights of people on both sides. Arizona Revised Statutes (A.R.S.) 13-3884 stipulates that private citizens may only make an arrest in two situations:
- When the arresting person witnesses the suspect committing a felony or a misdemeanor that breaches the peace.
- When the arresting person knows that someone committed a felony and has a significant reason to believe the suspect is responsible.
Unfortunately, not every person inclined to make a citizen’s arrest knows the law well enough to determine whether an infraction meets those conditions.
What Is a Breach of the Peace?
According to Arizona laws of arrest, a “breach of the peace” is synonymous with “disorderly conduct.” A.R.S. 13-2904 describes this charge in more detail. In general terms, it means a person is causing a serious disturbance. Playing a radio loud enough to shake the windows in neighboring houses is one example, but so are the following:
- Disrupting a public meeting.
- Interfering with legal business practices.
- Fighting and harassing behavior.
In addition, Cause No. CR-20000140 of the Arizona Court of Appeals found that driving under the influence of alcohol or drugs also qualifies as a breach of peace.
How Do You Make a Citizen’s Arrest in Arizona?
Three statutes create the standards for arrest by private person procedure:
- 13-3889. Method of arrest by private person.
- 13-3900. Duty of private person after making arrest.
- 13-3895. Weapons to be taken from person arrested.
The first stipulates that a private person must inform a suspect that she is under citizen’s arrest and the reason why. There are a few special exceptions. Mainly, if the suspect is fleeing, fighting or otherwise making an announcement difficult or impossible.
The second says the arresting party must take the suspect to the nearest magistrate or peace officer. The party may also have to make a formal complaint to the magistrate.
Finally, the third – and most dangerous – requires that any person making a lawful arrest may confiscate the suspect’s weapons and turn them over to the appropriate magistrate.
Can I Use a Weapon During a Citizen’s Arrest?
While performing a citizen's arrest, Arizona law limits private citizens to reasonable and necessary force. If a police officer wouldn’t do it, a private citizen shouldn’t either. For instance, the U.S. Supreme Court determined in Tennessee v. Garner 471 U.S. 1 (1985) that police officers shouldn’t use deadly force unless a suspect is a serious threat to others.
When it comes to practical applications of a citizen’s arrest, Arizona officers encourage citizens to use caution. Officers know how to recognize signs of danger that a layperson might not. Members of law enforcement know which charges apply to different crimes, as well. An overzealous citizen can wind up on the wrong side of the law.
For instance, felony theft involves goods or services valued over $1,000. While stores can rely on a provision of Arizona laws of arrest called “Shopkeeper’s privilege,” other private citizens can’t. In Arizona Attorney General Opinion I85-048, Senator Wayne Stump clarified that mistakes in citizen arrests can lead to serious charges such as:
- False imprisonment.
- Attempted kidnap.
- False arrest.
- Assault and battery.
- Violation of civil rights.
Is It Illegal to Resist a Citizen’s Arrest? Arizona Law Says Yes
A.R.S. 13-2508 makes it a crime to resist arrest by a police officer or someone acting within the capacities of one. During a citizen arrest, Arizona law maintains that threatening, creating a substantial risk to the arresting party or injuring the arresting party is a class 6 felony. Peaceful resistance is a simple misdemeanor.
- Justia U.S. Supreme Court Center: Tennessee v. Garner
- The Shining S.T.A.R.L.: You’re Under Citizen’s Arrest!
- Arizona Memory Project: Wayne Stump (Arizona State Senate)
- Arizona State Legislature: 13-3895. Weapons to be taken from person arrested
- Arizona State Legislature: 13-2508. Resisting arrest; classification; definition
- Arizona State Legislature: 13-3900. Duty of private person after making arrest
- Arizona State Legislature: 13-3889. Method of arrest by private person
- Arizona State Legislature: 13-2904. Disorderly conduct; classification
- Arizona State Legislature: 13-3884. Arrest by private person