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Let's say a court issues a arrest warrant for a police officer and private bounty hunters apprehend the officer. The police show up and demand the officer be released, start shooting etc. The bounty hunter has his own friends that join his side.

In this case, can private citizens legally fight police?

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    Its amazing to me how many people post question on the site who seem to want the right to shoot somebody. – George White Jul 15 at 22:29
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    Do bounty hunters execute arrest warrants in Nevada? I assumed they just went after people who had skipped out on bail. – George White Jul 15 at 22:30
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The police who show up are in violation of the law (NRS 199.260, 199.270), so they do not enjoy the particular powers that police officers generally have. Nevertheless, this does not give you the right to drop bombs for fun. The arresting individual has the right to use reasonable force to effectuate the arrest. Ordinarily, you can't punch a person; but it is a defense against a battery charge that you did so in the course of a lawful arrest. NRS 171.126 even allows private citizens who are not bounty hunters to perform an arrest. A line is drawn at deadly force, because under NRS 171.1455,

If necessary to prevent escape, an officer may, after giving a warning, if feasible, use deadly force to effect the arrest of a person only if there is probable cause to believe that the person:

  1. Has committed a felony which involves the infliction or threat of serious bodily harm or the use of deadly force; or 2. Poses a threat of serious bodily harm to the officer or to others.

Note that this permission to use deadly force only applies to police officers. Independently, though, if one of the illegally-acting police officers uses force to prevent the lawful arrest, deadly force may be legal under NRS 200.120:

Justifiable homicide is the killing of a human being in necessary self-defense, or in defense of an occupied habitation, an occupied motor vehicle or a person, against one who manifestly intends or endeavors to commit a crime of violence, or against any person or persons who manifestly intend and endeavor, in a violent, riotous, tumultuous or surreptitious manner, to enter the occupied habitation or occupied motor vehicle, of another for the purpose of assaulting or offering personal violence to any person dwelling or being therein.

The rogue officers are committing battery, which is a crime.

This assumes that the underlying charge is a felony, whereas if it is a misdemeanor, the person either had to witness the offense, or must have been ordered to perform the arrest by a magistrate who witnessed the offense. Nevada law (NRS 171.117 ff) says that an arrest warrant is "directed to and executed by a peace officer", so a bounty hunter is not executing an arrest warrant (unless they were deputized by a magistrate, as also provided by law). But if you know that there is a warrant and the offense is a felony, you satisfy the requirement for a private citizen to have "reasonable cause for believing the person arrested to have committed" the crime.

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  • But what if the entire police force shows up and it becomes a cops vs courts shootout? – Dan Jul 16 at 2:43
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    Sounds like a movie plot. Hard to say who will survive, but that doesn't change the law. – user6726 Jul 16 at 5:02
  • Your opening sentence is just wrong: police are police even if they are miss-applying the law. – Dale M Oct 23 at 11:51

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