Understanding Citizen's Arrest in Florida (2023)

Citizen’s arrest is a concept that has been around for centuries, and while it may seem like something out of a superhero movie, it’s actually deeply rooted in common law. In this post, we’ll dive into the specifics of citizen’s arrest, its limitations, and its implications for everyday citizens in Miami, Florida. By understanding the legal intricacies of citizen’s arrest in Florida, you’ll be better prepared to navigate real-life situations where it might come into play.

What is Citizen’s Arrest?

A citizen’s arrest is a legal act where private citizens have the authority to arrest someone without a warrant. This authority varies depending on the crime committed, with different rules applying to misdemeanors and felonies. Let’s break down the requirements for each type of offense.

Misdemeanor Citizen’s Arrest: Breach of the Peace

For a private citizen to have the authority to arrest someone for a misdemeanor, two conditions must be met:

  1. The offense must constitute a breach of the peace.
  2. The offense must have been committed in the presence of the arresting citizen.

The breach of peace requirement is interpreted quite liberally. For example, resisting arrest without violence and driving under the influence (DUI) have both been considered misdemeanors constituting a peace breach.

Felony Citizen’s Arrest: Probable Cause

A private citizen has the authority to arrest a person for a felony under the following circumstances:

  1. The felony was committed in the citizen’s presence.
  2. A felony has been committed, and the citizen has probable cause to believe and does believe that the person to be arrested is guilty of committing it.

It’s important to note that private citizens can make a warrantless arrest even if they have time to report the crime to a law enforcement officer and obtain a warrant. However, the citizen must justify their failure to do so by proving that the person arrested was guilty of the felony.

No Citizen’s Arrest for Traffic Infractions

A key limitation of citizen’s arrest is that it does not apply to traffic infractions. Private citizens have no right to arrest someone for a traffic violation.

How to Make a Citizen’s Arrest

Making a citizen’s arrest is serious and should only be considered in exceptional circumstances. Understanding the legalities and risks involved is crucial before attempting to perform a citizen’s arrest.

Step-by-Step Guide to Making a Citizen’s Arrest

  1. Evaluate the situation: Before taking action, assess the situation to determine if a citizen’s arrest is necessary and appropriate. Ensure that the offense meets the criteria for a citizen’s arrest (e.g., a breach of peace for a misdemeanor or probable cause for a felony).
  2. Ensure your safety: Your safety and the safety of others should always be your top priority. Do not attempt a citizen’s arrest if it puts you, the suspect, or others in danger. If the situation is volatile, it’s best to call law enforcement and allow them to handle the matter.
  3. Observe the offense: To make a citizen’s arrest, you must witness the misdemeanor committed in your presence or have probable cause to believe a felony has been committed. Make note of important details, such as the suspect’s appearance, actions, and any evidence at the scene.
  4. Inform the suspect: Clearly and calmly inform the suspect that you are making a citizen’s arrest. Explain the reason for the arrest and the specific offense they have committed.
  5. Use minimal force: When making a citizen’s arrest, use only the amount of force necessary to restrain the suspect. Excessive force can lead to legal consequences, such as assault or battery charges.
  6. Call law enforcement: As soon as possible, contact the police and inform them of the situation. Provide them with details about the offense, the suspect, and your location. Remain on the scene until law enforcement arrives to take custody of the suspect.
  7. Cooperate with law enforcement: Once the police arrive, cooperate fully with their investigation. Provide them with any information or evidence you have, and be prepared to give a statement about the events leading up to the citizen’s arrest.

Important Considerations

  • Making a citizen’s arrest carries potential legal risks, such as false imprisonment, assault, or battery charges. Always consider the potential consequences before taking action.
  • Laws and regulations regarding citizen’s arrest may vary by jurisdiction. Consult with a criminal defense lawyer and familiarize yourself with local laws before attempting a citizen’s arrest.
  • Remember that private citizens have no authority to arrest someone for traffic infractions.

Understanding the Risks and Responsibilities

While a citizen’s arrest may seem like a powerful tool for maintaining order, it’s crucial to understand the risks and responsibilities involved. Arresting someone without proper legal authority or justification can lead to civil and criminal liability, including charges of false imprisonment, assault, or battery. Additionally, determining probable cause and evaluating whether a crime constitutes a breach of the peace can be challenging for individuals without legal training.

Citizen’s arrest is an intriguing aspect of common law that empowers private citizens to take action against certain criminal offenses. However, it’s essential to recognize this authority’s limitations and potential legal ramifications. Before attempting a citizen’s arrest, it’s wise to consult with a criminal defense lawyer to understand your rights and responsibilities better. If you find yourself in a situation where you believe a citizen’s arrest is necessary, always prioritize your safety and contact law enforcement as soon as possible to handle the situation professionally and legally.

By The Edelstein Firm|May 4th, 2023|Categories: Criminal Law, Florida Law|Comments Off on Understanding Citizen’s Arrest in Florida


How does citizen's arrest work in Florida? ›

A private citizen has the authority to arrest a person for a felony under the following circumstances: The felony was committed in the citizen's presence. A felony has been committed, and the citizen has probable cause to believe and does believe that the person to be arrested is guilty of committing it.

What words do you use for citizens arrest? ›

There are no specific words you must say, but you must make it completely clear that you are making a citizen's arrest. The person you're arresting must fully understand what's happening. Explain to the potential criminal why you are making a citizen's arrest.

What is the statute of citizens arrest in Florida? ›

In Florida, there is no specific statute that outlines the rights and wrongs of a citizen's arrest, but common law dictates that such an arrest can be made in instances where a felony or breach of the peace has been committed or attempted.

What does the Constitution say about citizen's arrest? ›

PC 837 says, “A private person may arrest another: (1) For a public offense committed or attempted in his presence. (2) When the person arrested has committed a felony, although not in his presence.

Can security detain you in Florida? ›

A security officer or security agency manager may temporarily detain a person only until a law enforcement officer arrives at the premises of the client and is in the presence of the detainee.

Can you have visitors on house arrest Florida? ›

You cannot go out and visit with family or friends, or go on vacation, but you can work, go to school, do your community service, go to worship services (no social events), and participate in other preapproved activities. House arrest confines you to your house and yard.

What word means most nearly the same as arrest? ›

Synonyms of arrest (noun taking into custody) capture. detention. imprisonment. incarceration.

What is the word of arrest? ›

1. : seize, capture. specifically : to take or keep in custody by authority of law. Police arrested the suspect.

How do you make a citizens arrest in the USA? ›

“A private person may arrest an offender if the offense is committed in his presence or within his immediate knowledge. If the offense is a felony and the offender is escaping or attempting to escape, a private person may arrest him upon reasonable and probable grounds of suspicion.”

Can Florida police record you without permission? ›

12 states, including Florida, require the consent of all parties being recorded. Florida courts ruled that “parties” does not include on-duty police.

How long can police hold you in Florida? ›

Someone can be held in jail for 33 days without being charged, according to Rule 3.134 of the Florida Rules of Criminal Procedure. It is important to note that the state actually only has 30 days to charge an arrestee with a crime. If it has not filed charges by that date, it must release the arrestee by the 33rd day.

How long does an arrest stay on your record in Florida? ›

How Long Do Criminal Records in Florida Last For? Criminal records begin the moment a person is arrested for a crime. They effectively last for the rest of your life. However, the information recorded may be able to be removed or made inaccessible through expungement or sealing.

What does the 4th Amendment mean to citizens? ›

The Constitution, through the Fourth Amendment, protects people from unreasonable searches and seizures by the government. The Fourth Amendment, however, is not a guarantee against all searches and seizures, but only those that are deemed unreasonable under the law.

Is it a constitutional right to not talk to police? ›

The Police Must Tell You of Your Right to Remain Silent

Your constitutional right not to speak to the police is so important, they must inform you of this right as part of the Miranda warnings given when they are taking you into custody for interrogations or are arresting you.

What is an example of the 4th Amendment being violated? ›

A police search of a home is conducted in violation of the homeowner's Fourth Amendment rights because no search warrant was issued and no special circumstances justified the search. Any evidence obtained as a result of that search cannot be used against the homeowner in a criminal case.

Can police take your phone in Florida? ›

With the fourth amendment preventing unlawful searches and seizures and the fifth preventing self-incrimination, the unjust search and seizure of your phone is a civil rights violation. So, if an officer asks you to unlock the phone, you can refuse and make them get a warrant.

Can a security guard touch you in Florida? ›

Security guards are only allowed to use reasonable force when attending to a suspect. Any levels of extra force such as physical restraint and grabbing must only be used when completely necessary and when in the process of detaining someone.

Is mall security allowed to touch you? ›

If they perform a civilian's arrest, security guards must use reasonable force. Otherwise, a security guard should not touch anyone, unless the guard is trying to protect a person, the employer's property, or act in self-defense.

Can I walk around my property on house arrest? ›

Can A Person Leave The House While On House Arrest? The house arrest ankle bracelet works within a specific range of the home, so if an emergency such as a fire occurs, the individual could walk outside onto a lawn. Still, if the person travels too far, police officers go to the home.

Can ankle monitors hear you? ›

In addition to having a microphone, some ankle bracelets have the ability to record you as well. Even though they are supposed to alert you when they're recording, there have been issues. Some reports have claimed that ankle bracelets have recorded conversations without notifying the wearer.

How far can you go with ankle monitor? ›

RF monitoring is primarily “curfew monitoring.” With RF, a participant wears an ankle bracelet and places a home monitoring unit in his or her home. The unit can be set to detect a bracelet within a range of 50 to 150 feet. When a bracelet comes in range of the unit, the unit sends a notice to the monitoring center.

What is a less serious word for crime? ›

A misdemeanor is a minor offense, rather than a serious crime. A minor infraction like keeping a library book for years or stealing a pack of bubblegum would be considered a misdemeanor. A crime like murder is serious, a felony that can land the person who commits it in jail for a long time.

What is a less severe word for crime? ›

In general, misdemeanors are usually considered less serious crimes and have lesser punishments than felonies.

What is a word for avoid arrest? ›

synonyms: fugitive from justice. types: absconder. a fugitive who runs away and hides to avoid arrest or prosecution. escapee.

What is an arrest culture? ›

An arrested culture was a culture that was stagnant. Specifically, this might include lack of advancement and significant changes in their physical environment.

What is the past perfect form of arrest? ›

arrested - Simple English Wiktionary.

What is the plural form of arrest? ›

plural arrests. 2 arrest. /əˈrɛst/ noun. plural arrests.

Can you search people before arresting them? ›

They do not need to get a search warrant or consent from the suspect to search. The police also can search the vicinity of the person under arrest for further evidence. A search incident to arrest may even be appropriate if the suspect committed an offense that usually results in a citation rather than a formal arrest.

What happens if someone calls the police on you and you leave? ›

Regardless of why you left, officers generally will look for you if they have an idea of where you are and it is close. They will often search the immediate geographic vicinity of a crime scene, as they do not want to leave only to have someone return, and reengage an alleged victim or have evidence destroyed.

What is the penal code 836? ›

Section 836, Penal Code, provides for arrests without a warrant, and reads as follows: "A peace-officer may make an arrest in obedience to a warrant delivered to him, or may, without a warrant, arrest a person: 1. For a public offense committed or attempted in his presence.

Can you refuse to show ID in Florida? ›

You are only expected to identify yourself to Florida law enforcement officers (police officers and Sheriff's deputies, not immigration or FBI agents) when you are stopped on suspicion of a crime or a traffic violation. If you don't have identification documents, you may choose to remain silent.

Do passengers have to show ID in Florida? ›

As a passenger in a vehicle, if the police do not have reasonable suspicion to believe that you have committed a crime, it is legal to refuse to show identification.

Can a police officer keep your license in Florida? ›

Florida law allows the arresting officer now to physically take possession of your driver's license if you've either refused a breath or blood test or you've taken the breath test and blown over the legal limit, which is . 08. If your license is valid, the ticket serves as a permit for 10 days.

Can cops chase cars in Florida? ›

An officer has the responsibility to drive in a manner that shall least endanger any person or property. Should not needlessly endanger other persons. A motor vehicle pursuit is justified only when the necessity of immediate apprehension out weighs the level of danger created by the pursuit.

When can police pat you down in Florida? ›

Florida's stop and frisk law allows an officer to detain a person temporarily to ascertain the person's identity and the circumstances of the presence when there are reasonable indications that such a person has committed, is about to commit, or is committing a crime.

What is the stop and frisk law in Florida? ›

Florida's Stop and Frisk Law. § 901.151(2), Fla. Stat., codified level two encounters. The statute authorizes officers to temporarily detain an individual when the circumstances reasonably indicate the person committed, is committing, or is about to commit a criminal offense.

What is Citizens Patrol in Florida? ›

Established in 1998, the Citizens On Patrol (COP) is an enhanced mobile "Neighborhood Watch" group that patrols, observes and reports suspicious activities. It's made up of men and women who volunteer their time to be an extra set of eyes and ears for law enforcement. COP's have to be at least 19 years old.

What is the difference between citizens arrest and vigilante? ›

A vigilante is defined as: “One who takes or advocates the taking of law enforcement into one's own hands”. An arrest is defined as: “… To seize and hold under the authority of law…”.

When can a police officer arrest someone in Florida? ›

When can a police officer may make an arrest? When the court issues an arrest warrant for your arrest. See someone commit a crime. The law enforcements has reasonable grounds to suspect someone has committed a crime or is likely to do so.

How does house arrest work in CT? ›

Under house arrest, a person is confined to his or her home with the exception of limited periods where he or she may leave for work or to attend school. Other than those exceptions, the person must remain within the premises. An electronic bracelet may be used to track that person's whereabouts and activities.

Top Articles
Latest Posts
Article information

Author: Rob Wisoky

Last Updated: 06/12/2023

Views: 5241

Rating: 4.8 / 5 (48 voted)

Reviews: 87% of readers found this page helpful

Author information

Name: Rob Wisoky

Birthday: 1994-09-30

Address: 5789 Michel Vista, West Domenic, OR 80464-9452

Phone: +97313824072371

Job: Education Orchestrator

Hobby: Lockpicking, Crocheting, Baton twirling, Video gaming, Jogging, Whittling, Model building

Introduction: My name is Rob Wisoky, I am a smiling, helpful, encouraging, zealous, energetic, faithful, fantastic person who loves writing and wants to share my knowledge and understanding with you.