Suppose you witnessed a robbery or theft from a store in the United States and saw someone running with the stolen goods, and you yell, "Stop, thief." Are you within your rights?

Suppose you see someone running, and the police chasing him. If you were brave or foolhardy enough to do this, are you allowed to try to trip or grab or push this person to slow him down so that the police can catch up, or would this be assault?

Do the above actions fall under citizens' arrest?


So for your first question, yelling "Stop Thief" loudly at the thief is perfectly legal (Like Yelling "Fire" in a crowded theater, it's legal if the theater is infact, on fire... the quote implied that it was a prankster who drew amusement from the reaction of the people who took him seriously). This may alert store employees, who have a specific kind of Citizens Arrest Power known as "Shopkeeper's Privilege" and is a reduced liability compared to Citizens Arrest. This is also pretty basic self defense agains people who are not engaged in any physical action against you but are starting to scare you. Suddenly shouting draws attention to you and discourages them from their behavior "I SAID DON'T TOUCH ME" being suddenly shouted in a Wal Mart is going to get notices from the immediate crowd drawn to you, and by poximate location, the person who is making you uneasy.

For your second question, maybe, it depends... since the cop is clearly chasing the guy, you meet the qualification to use non-deadly force in stopping the criminal (i.e. you are witnessing a person committing a crime, in this case, resisting arrest or persuit) and it would certainly be reasonably non-deadly force if you were to trip, grab, or push the fleeing suspect. Citizens Arrest doesn't specify a minimum time to qualify, so if the officer is seconds behind, and you detain the criminal in this action until the gap is closed, it still counts.


The exact specifics of what you can do would depend on your location, but you are allowed to assist police.

Normally, the officer will tell you to help or not to help if one is there. If the officer or someone is in danger of being harmed you should obviously help though.

You would be here until the end of time if you went through each scenario, but the force you use to detain someone has to be reasonable under the 4th amendment, just like a real officer.

A citizen's arrest means that the citizen does it without the police, so if the police were there it would not be a citizen's arrest.

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