Citizen’s Arrest

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The topics in the Dial-A-Law series provide general information on a wide variety of legal issues in the Province of Alberta. This service is provided by Calgary Legal Guidance funded in part by the Alberta Law Foundation.

This topic discusses a citizen’s arrest or the arrest by a private person.

Citizen’s arrest” is a form of arrest that does not involve a police officer. If you are involved in such an arrest, the arrested person, whom you have arrested must be dealt with by the police. You have no right to search or question the arrested person.

An arrest by a private citizen may be made in one of three situations:

  • If you find a person committing an indictable criminal offence;
  • If you believe on reasonable grounds a person has committed such an offence;
  • If a person is escaping and is being chased by someone who has lawful authority to arrest.

Extreme care must be taken before making a citizen’s arrest. If you made an error and the arrest is wrongful, you can be sued by the victim. If force was used in the arrest, you may face a criminal charge from the police. You are better advised to report the matter to a police officer.