Citizen’s Arrest, by Bill Haney, Ventura County Criminal Defense Attorney

citizen's arrest

Anyone attempting to make a citizen’s arrest is risking civil liability. I strongly discourage anyone from making a citizen’s arrest without the aid of a police officer except under the most dire circumstances. To prevent personal injury and civil liability, always call a police officer to make an arrest if you witness any violation of law.

Pursuant to Penal Code Section 837, a private person may make an arrest under the following circumstances:

  1. For any public offenses that is committed or attempted in his or her presence;
  2. When the arrestee has committed a felony, even if the felony was not committed in his or her presence.
  3. When a felony has, in fact, been committed, and the private person has “reasonable cause” to believe that the arrestee committed the felony.

“A private person making a citizen’s arrest under California law need not physically take the suspect into custody.” (1)  He may “delegate that responsibility to an officer” upon summoning an officer, reporting the crime and pointing out the person to be arrested. (2)

If you are sued or arrested in Ventura County after making, or attempting to make a citizen’s arrest, please don’t hesitate to give me a call.  I  am a former supervising prosecutor in the Ventura County District Attorney’s Office.  I understand the laws of arrest that apply to both civilians and police officers.  I now proudly defend clients in the Ventura County Superior Court.  After our initial consultation, I will outline an expert defense that is designed to give you the best possible chance for a successful outcome in court.


(1) 20 Cal.Jur.3d Criminal Law: Pretrial Proceedings Section 257

(2) 20 Cal.Jur.3d Criminal Law: Pretrial Proceedings Section 257