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Elkhart County Sheriff Department

ECSD Info: Here is the latest Ask-the-Sheriff article from the Goshen News.

Dear Sheriff:  Can you describe the process for making a citizen’s arrest? 

Answer:  Law enforcement officers are public servants that provide law enforcement, including arrests, protection and service to our community.  However, this is not a police state.  We don’t have, nor do we want, a police officer on every corner.  Sometimes, citizens are in a position to choose to intervene in a criminal act where law enforcement officers are not present.  This can be extremely dangerous and is not recommended unless you have the abilities, training and the intestinal fortitude to intervene.  Before you intervene, you should know the parameters of the law relating to a citizen’s arrest and the use of force to effect that arrest.

Indiana law provides that citizens may arrest those who are committing a felony or a breach of the peace.  Indiana Code 35-33-1-4 says in part: “Any person may arrest (the taking of a person into custody, that he may be held to answer for a crime) any other person if:  the other person committed a felony in his presence; a felony has been committed and he has probable cause to believe that the other person has committed that felony; or a misdemeanor involving a breach of peace is being committed in his presence and the arrest is necessary to prevent the continuance of the breach of peace.  A person making an arrest under this section shall, as soon as practical, notify a law enforcement officer and deliver custody of the person arrested to a law enforcement officer…” 

In addition to arrest, the proper use of force must be considered for the action to be legal and to avoid undue liability by the citizen.  Indiana Code IC 35-41-3-3 says in part:  “A person other than a law enforcement officer is justified in using reasonable force against another person to effect an arrest or prevent the other person's escape if a felony has been committed and there is probable cause to believe the other person committed that felony.  However, such a person is not justified in using deadly force unless that force is justified under [IC 35-41-3-2]…”

IC 35-41-3-2 states in part, “…A person is justified in using reasonable force against any other person to protect the person or a third person from what the person reasonably believes to be the imminent use of unlawful force…”

As you can imagine, lawyers and juries have much more time to consider facts of a dynamic situation, in which you only have seconds to decide on a course of action, once confronted with an incident.  Police officers face this daily. 

Make sure you’re knowledgeable of the law and your abilities before taking an active role in an arrest.  The removal of someone’s freedom improperly can cause you serious legal headaches.  Sometimes it’s better to just be a good witness if you or others are not in immediate peril.  If you’re not confident or have the ability, it’s best to call 911 and let law enforcement officers handle the situation.

Ask-the-Sheriff a question by emailing Elkhart County Sheriff Brad Rogers at brogers@elkhartcountysheriff

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Date: 2:52:58 PM 02/28/2014 CST


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