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Legal-Guru
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Experience:  Experienced Criminal Trial Attorney since 1998.
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re: Question regarding citizens arrest Over the past year

Resolved Question:

re: Question regarding citizens arrest

Over the past year there has been A LOT of theft in my complex. Recently a small truck drove off w/ my water boards, and stuff from 2 of my neighbors. I started running after the truck hoping I could catch up to him at the gate while it opened up but I couldn't.

Additionally, at a doughnut shop my daughter set her ipad down for 20 seconds w/ in a couple feet of us and a guy maybe 17, 18 yrs old grabbed it and ran out the door, we all ran after him and yelled to give the ipad back and he put it down and jumped in a SUV. I ran over within 1 foot of him inside the truck and took many pics of him and pics of the SUV w/ license plate PLUS the doughnut shop had him on camera too. This was like 5 months ago and the cops still have done nothing. They said, "well he gave it back to you do you really want to file a report." I filed the report and nothing.

Anyway, my question is what can I legally do if I think somebody has stolen from me? I'm not in danger, they are leaving. Could I have put my hands on the 17, 18 yr old and pulled him out of the SUV? There was 4 of us there we could have easily subdued him but I get really scared of doing something I could be charged with. How about the guy in the truck that took our stuff from our complex?

Just some quick advice would be appreciated.
Submitted: 1 year ago.
Category: Criminal Law
Expert:  Legal-Guru replied 1 year ago.
Welcome to JustAnswer.

Legally yes you can make a citizens arrest for any crime committed in your presence. I should warn you though that there are many pitfalls that can happen and many police and prosecutors take a dim view of citizens arrests.

For instance pulling someone out of a car could result in someone getting killed. Also, if one of the three other people you were with decided to take some street justice out on the thief and punch him a few times, you could be legally responsible for that. Obviously we just saw some of the things that could go wrong in the George Zimmerman trial.

If you do decide to try making a citizens arrest, you must use the least amount of force necessary to effed the arrest, notify them that you are making a citizens arrest and for what crime, and deliver them to a police officer immediately. Also, remember that while they are in your custody you are responsible for their safety and welfare. Overall, in most situations I don't think it is worth the risk to you both from a legal and safety perspective.

Here are a couple of the California statutes on citizens arrest and a guide I found online that has some good advice and appears to be consistent with California law:

http://law.onecle.com/california/penal/837.html

http://law.onecle.com/california/penal/847.html

http://www.wikihow.com/Make-a-Citizen's-Arrest-in-California

Legal-Guru, Criminal Justice Lawyer
Category: Criminal Law
Satisfied Customers: 1354
Experience: Experienced Criminal Trial Attorney since 1998.
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