A citizen is allowed to make an arrest in certain instances, as determined by state laws, which vary by state. Making a citizen's arrest maliciously or without reasonable basis in belief could lead to civil or criminal penalties. It is a violation of a suspect's civil rights to use excessive force, to torture, to hold in unsafe or cruel conditions or to invent a reason to arrest for the ulterior motive of settling a private score.
Because a person making a citizen’s arrest may be subjected to charges of impersonating police, false imprisonment, kidnapping, or wrongful arrest, especially if the wrong person is apprehended or a suspect's civil rights are violated, the following guidelines are suggested by law enforcement officials:
- Notify police upon observing a crime.
- Provide police with information to assist in identifying the violator.
- Sign the complaint form. (After this, most cases are concluded without your further involvement.)
- Appear in court when requested by the District Attorney's Office.