In the United States, can a non citizen make a citizen's arrest? Does this vary by state?


2 Answers 2



The meaning of "citizen" in "citizen's arrest" has nothing to do with citizenship. It just means "ordinary person" or "member of the public" — as opposed to "a law enforcement officer".

  • 6
    So it's what a law enforcement officer would refer to as a "citizen", i.e., "not one of us".
    – PJB
    Commented Jul 12, 2021 at 17:36
  • 1
    Sounds like Civilian would be a better word to use here. Commented Jul 14, 2021 at 12:27
  • @FedericoPoloni Not quite: military personnel don't have any more arrest rights than citizen's arrest rights.
    – Greendrake
    Commented Jul 14, 2021 at 13:40
  • Or alternatively "Little People". (shameless movie reference) youtube.com/watch?v=p3d2VAm7TKE
    – Phill W.
    Commented Jul 14, 2021 at 14:42
  • @FedericoPoloni, cops are civilians. Commented Jul 8, 2022 at 15:29

For the purposes of “citizen’s arrest” statutes, the use of the word “citizen” is interpreted broader than a citizen of a State or a national of the U.S..

It may still, however, exclude certain categories: Staff of a consular post or diplomatic mission would probably be excluded from engaging in such activity and the same probably applies for members of foreign law enforcement in their official capacities unless with special authorizations etc.

(Analogous or similar example: Frontex officers (EU boarder patrols) patrolling with local police in Member States of the EU may not carry out arrests even though they are lawfully carrying out their border patrols with local authorities and assistance of local law enforcement.)

  • 4
    "Staff of a consular post or diplomatic mission would probably be excluded from engaging in such activity" Why?
    – Mast
    Commented Jul 12, 2021 at 10:02
  • 3
    Customary international law governs all non-expressed matters of the 2 Vienna conventions including relating to proportionality in immunity and non-interference. Of these envoys, even the most basic rights for a resident, citizen or person of similar status in the receiving State, are enumerated in these conventions, including the right to movement in the receiving State; this infers that rights not enumerated are not granted. And I don’t see any basis of a “citizen’s arrest” by a member of a consular staff founded in customary law regardless if they would, personally, enjoy immunity.
    – kisspuska
    Commented Jul 12, 2021 at 15:08
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    (A persona non grata designation is not unreasonable for interference in the sovereignty of the receiving State and that is enough of a punishment both personally and diplomatically for the sending State.) It’s not as clear for members of the consular staff when they are not on consular premises and not carrying out their official capacities. If they are also a national of the receiving State, their relation to a consular post would probably most probably not have relevance in their engagement.
    – kisspuska
    Commented Jul 12, 2021 at 15:09
  • This staff would have immunity, so if they tried a citizens arrest and it was found illegal, they couldn't be charged. So in a situation where it's dubious whether I could do a citizen's arrest or not, consular staff could go ahead without fear.
    – gnasher729
    Commented Jul 12, 2021 at 19:59
  • 1
    Only the consular staff (non-administrative, non-service) have immunity and only while carrying out official duties. They don’t have personal immunity, and they are, for the purposes of a citizen’s arrest, might be deemed a citizen-equivalent off-duty. And therefore, if the act is found illegal under the relevant statute, they will be charged, and that’s the least concerning part. The diplomatic repercussions could be dire if they are found to be staff of a consular post regardless of the off-duty private capacity let alone if they asserted immunity.
    – kisspuska
    Commented Jul 12, 2021 at 20:31

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