Let's say that someone comes onto your property with the intent to commit a crime. Not only that; let's say that you suspected this person would come to commit a crime, and you created a one-way door that traps them in a room when entered. You essentially set up a non lethal "booby trap".

Is this legal? Perhaps you didn't force them into the trap, but they wondered into it by themselves.

  • @BlueDogRanch, almost certainly not. This is about non-lethal traps, eg. a closet with a door that is only openable from the outside.
    – Mark
    Commented Feb 4, 2020 at 3:15
  • 1
    I believe the jargon for this is a "mantrap" (the neutral word "persontrap" doesn't work here, even google redirects it.)
    – Criggie
    Commented Feb 20 at 1:41

1 Answer 1


Yes, this is legal, but the specific details depend on where you live. In general, it would be a form of Citizen's arrest. Georgia law previously defined it as:

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.

In other words, if either he has already commited a crime before trying to leave, or if you are have reasonable suspicion that the person came to commit a felony, then you were allowed to trap him as he is attempting to escape.

The requirements for performing this citizen's arrest vary much from state to state. Just recently Georgia changed their law to apply to business owners suspecting theft, and a couple other cases. Other states allow the use of non-lethal force in order to effect such a citizen's arrest. Texas even allows the use of lethal force, if necessary, to keep the person from leaving your property until law enforcement comes.

More jurisdiction-specific details on citizen's arrest can be found on Wikipedia.

  • from your link: Georgia repealed its citizen's arrest law. Note that citizens arrest laws vary WILDLY from state to state in the USA. If I recall, some states allows you to "arrest" someone, but not detain them :/ Commented Feb 21 at 4:17
  • Good to know -- apparently now it has been replaced with a similar law that only allows you to make the arrest if you are a business owner, a weight inspector, or licensed to do certain businesses. web.archive.org/web/20211019150229/https://www.legis.ga.gov/api/…
    – Alex
    Commented Feb 21 at 11:45
  • Some additional issues: (1) usually a citizen's arrest is only allowed when you have personally witnessed a crime being committed (not the case for some automatic trap) or have been deputized in a particular instance after a crime is committed to aid a law enforcement officer, (2) someone detained in a citizen's arrest must be promptly turned over to law enforcement (basically, it would have to call 9-1-1 immediately upon being triggered); and (3) such traps would often violate fire codes and building codes. Bottom line: only very rarely a good idea.
    – ohwilleke
    Commented Feb 22 at 9:11

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