Citizen’s Arrest Laws by State
1. Parentheses. “Source ____” means the link goes to the language of the statute, but not from an official government site. We include these because government databases can be very difficult to link correctly, and these external sites can provide an easier to find reference. These may not keep up with the official source, and may be inaccurate.”Judicial Rules” means the linked item is not a statute, but rules of the judiciary. “Official Source ____” is the statute from an official, .gov website or Lexis Nexis database and will be accurate. “More information from _____” indicates useful information for someone looking to make a citizen’s arrest in that state. “Attorney General’s opinion” are opinions from the state’s attorney general that in some way either lay out the grounds for a citizens arrest, or the type of offense required for a citizen’s arrest to be legal.
2. Search for. Many government databases simply do not provide a way to link to the actual statute. When this happens, and an outside source cannot be found, we will note “search for” and the statute number to look for.
3. *. * Indicate detailed notes about a statute, or the lack thereof.
4. FELONY REQUIRED and variations. These indicate a state citizen’s arrest statute that specifically requires a felony to be committed before a citizen can take action, ruling out most arrests of elected officials. The lack of this indicator does NOT mean that a felony is not required, only that it is not clear whether the simple commission of a crime, a misdemeanor or a felony is required. Please check the linked statutes before taking any action.
5. This should not be considered legal advice. This list is a database of citizen’s arrest statutes and rules to aid anyone in making the right legal decisions before attempting a citizen’s arrest. It should not be construed as legal advice, and before taking action you may want to contact an attorney or other certified legal adviser.
FELONY REQUIRED Arkansas (Source 1)
FELONY REQUIRED Arkansas (Official Source)
FELONY REQUIRED Arkansas (Judicial Rules)
FELONY REQUIRED Kentucky (Source 1)
FELONY REQUIRED Kentucky (Official Source)
FELONY REQUIRED Louisiana (Official Source)
FELONY REQUIRED Louisiana (More Information)
*We could not find the code for citizens arrest in Maryland statutes, but there is a UMD article and a MD Attorney General opinion that come to the same conclusion on the current law as of 2005 in Maryland.
FELONY REQUIRED Massachusetts (Commonwealth v. Harris, look at page 170)*
FELONY REQUIRED Massachusetts (Commonwealth v. Grise, look at page 250)
*We could not find the code for citizens arrest in Massachusetts general laws, but the two court cases above conclude that a felony is required.
FELONY REQUIRED Michigan (Official Source)
*We could not find the official citizen’s arrest statute in Missouri, but we found an AG opinion that seems to point to any felony, or any misdemeanor which is either a breach of peace or a larceny, and Missouri statutes on the use of force when making a citizen’s arrest that clearly state “has committed an offense, and who in fact has committed such offense” and does not limit the offense to a simple felony.
FELONY OR LARCENY REQUIRED Nebraska (Official Source)
*We could not find the official citizen’s arrest statute in New Hampshire, but state statutes on the use of force make it clear that “reasonably believes to have committed a felony and who in fact has committed that felony” is a requirement. Therefore, until we can find more information, it is listed as FELONY REQUIRED.
*North Carolina law only allows citizens to detain, not arrest, offenders. The legal difference is murky, but make sure not to say the words “citizen’s arrest” when you are detaining another person in North Carolina, as it is specifically prohibited by state statute. North Carolina is also the only state to allow any person to get a warrant for arrest based upon probable cause and oath or affirmation, providing another avenue to bring corrupt officials to justice.
FELONY REQUIRED Ohio (Official Source)
*We could not find the official citizens arrest law for Pennsylvania. The closest we found was 18-508, referring to the correct use of force during a citizen’s arrest. Since there is a statute that lays out the proper use of force during an arrest, the implication would be that citizen’s arrests can be made in Pennsylvania. However, the statute gives no guidance as to the grounds for that arrest. UPDATE: We reached out to the Pennsylvania Legislative Reference Bureau, and they sent us a law review document that asserts the common law precedence that a private person can arrest another only if they have either committed a felony or a misdemeanor breach of the peace.
FELONY OR LARCENY REQUIRED South Carolina (Official Source, search for SECTION 17-13-10)
Vermont (Official Source Unavailable)*
*We could not find the official citizen’s arrest statute in Vermont. 13-59-4954 lays out the grounds for a citizens arrest on someone charged with a crime in another state, who would need to be extradited, but we cannot find any statutes related to citizens warrantless arrest of individuals outside that category.
Washington (Official Source Unavailable)*
*We could not find an official Washington citizen’s arrest statute. We called their legislative information center, and their law library, and both informed us that the statute does not exist. A 2005 report from the Department of Licensing confirms this. However, the law librarian and the report note that case law protects citizens arrests in the state. In State v. Gonzales and Guijosa v. Walmart Stores the Washington Court of Appeals opined that a person could arrest another person within the state for a misdemeanor that equaled a breach of the peace and was committed in the citizen’s presence. A person can also arrest for felonies, according to State v. Malone, State v. Miller, and State v. Gonzales. In addition, there is a WA Attorney General’s 1957 opinion on citizen’s arrest here.
West Virginia (Official Source Unavailable)
*We could not find any official citizens arrest statute in West Virginia.
*We could not find any citizens arrest statute in Wisconsin. A Wisconsin Attorney General’s report from 2008 states, firstly, that citizen’s arrests in Wisconsin are governed by common law, and secondly, that “a citizen can make a felony arrest without a warrant based on probable cause but can make a warrantless arrest for a misdemeanor only if the misdemeanor is committed in the citizen’s presence and constitutes a breach of the peace.”
FELONY, THEFT, or PROPERTY DESTRUCTION REQUIRED Wyoming (Source 1)
FELONY, THEFT, or PROPERTY DESTRUCTION REQUIRED Wyoming (Official Source, search for S. 7-8-101)