Is it Possible to Make a “Citizen’s Arrest” in NYC?

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Is it Possible to Make a “Citizen’s Arrest” in NYC?


Six days ago, Ro Malabanan, an MMA fighter, made news when he made a “citizen’s arrest” in Manhattan. According to reports, he came upon the suspect, Samuel Frazier, as Frazier punched a construction worker. He had apparently assaulted six others before Malabanan arrived on the scene. 

Malabanan checked to make sure the victim was okay, and then chased after the victim and tackled him. He pinned him to the game. 

Citizen’s arrests certainly show up a great deal on popular television shows as well. Yet you should be very careful before assuming you should make one.

New York’s Citizen Arrest Law

New York’s citizen arrest laws are covered by Criminal Procedure Law 140.30 and Penal Law 33.50

In order for a “citizen’s arrest” to be valid, you must:

  • See a felony offense that is committed in your presence or, 
  • Be absolutely correct that a person has committed a felony, and that you have the right person for it. 
  • You must tell the person why you are detaining them, unless it is impractical because of physical resistance or flight.
  • You must get the arrested person to a police officer “without unnecessary delay.”
  • You can use physical force but not deadly force, unless you are witnessing a murder, manslaughter in the first degree, robbery, or forcible rape.
  • You may not provoke the incident or be the initial aggressor.

If you are wrong about the person committing the crime you could find yourself charged with assault, or even kidnapping. 

Note that as we speak lawmakers are debating whether citizen’s arrest laws need to be tightened up or eliminated. Some lawmakers believe citizen’s arrests are dangerous, and have even been used by racists to harm people of color. 

Property Crimes

What about detaining someone who is suspected of stealing? There is a statute in New York which allows shopkeepers and landowners to restrain or detain someone who they believe has committed a crime on their property, or who is about to commit a crime on their property.

Some retail stores use this law to detain people who they believe have shoplifted in their store. 

Do you need a lawyer after a citizen’s arrest?

You might. If you yourself get arrested, you definitely need a lawyer. If the person you detained was acquitted you could find yourself on the wrong end of charges, and you will need a lawyer in that case, as well.

Reach out to us if you believe you might have acquired legal trouble as a result of making a citizen’s arrest. We’re ready to help you.

See also:

Can You Stand Your Ground in New York City? 

Is Self-Defense a Slam-Dunk Defense? 

Avoid Theft Charges: Check Your Cart and Check It Twice

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