Houston Criminal Law Blog

EXPERIENCED. AGGRESSIVE. HOUSTON CRIMINAL DEFENSE LAW FIRM: The Law Office of Matthew D. Sharp

What is Citizen’s Arrest?

Some people may find it enjoyable to arrest others and write citations. However, the reality of acting as a volunteer police officer does not necessarily fall in line with the fantasy. In some cases, a person is not able to legally arrest someone else.

Responsibilities of Volunteer Police Officers

Some cities or towns have volunteer law enforcement officers who are allowed to write citations in a minor capacity for parking or ordinance violations. Major crimes or dangerous situations are not within the scope for volunteers in these situations. A municipality must make clear how much responsibility a volunteer has. Volunteers may only issue citations that correctly follow the law. Volunteers must also have the proper training and qualifications before he or she can issue any citations. Some towns and cities may even authorize a volunteer to make citizen’s arrests. It is important for an “unofficial” police officer to know the scope of his or her duties and responsibilities before acting in any capacity.

Writing Citations

When a volunteer officer is writing a parking citation and notices illegal articles like drugs in a vehicle, he cannot issue a citation for that offense. A volunteer is not allowed to impound or search a vehicle. He is also prohibited from taking an individual to jail for an illegal offense if he only has the permission to write citations. The volunteer is supposed to notify a police officer and let the officer handle the situation. The volunteer has to err on the side of caution when any questions arise in the day-to-day routine. A police officer is trained to handle situations and will respond as soon as he is called.

Trouble Ahead

A volunteer who accidentally injures a person while trying to make an arrest may find a civil or criminal lawsuit filed against him. The volunteer may think that arresting an individual is the right thing to do, but he may find trouble instead. He might face grave consequences if a court finds that his actions were excessive.

An Attorney is Called

If a volunteer officer arrests a citizen, the citizen may seek the advice of an attorney if he believes that the volunteer was not acting in a reasonable manner before or during an altercation. Many attorneys have a working relationship with law enforcement and may gather any documentation on the client’s behalf to establish a claim or provide a defense for a criminal defendant.

Any questions about citizen’s arrests can be answered by speaking to The Law Office of Matthew D. Sharp at 713-868-6100.

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