Citizen’s Arrest – How Does It Work?

Man Hitting another man The citizen’s arrest is one of the least understood laws in every state in the United States. This article helps the reader to understand the law in Colorado underlying the right to a citizen’s arrest.

The Colorado Citizen’s Arrest

Under Colorado law a private citizen may arrest another person when the person arrested “commits or has committed a crime in the presence of the person making the arrest.” § 16-3-201, C.R.S.

The best analogy is to the police officer who in attempting or making an arrest “is justified in using reasonable and appropriate physical force,” § 18-1-707(1)(a), C.R.S.

Here is the law:

16-3-201. Arrest by a private person

A person who is not a peace officer may arrest another person when any crime has been or is being committed by the arrested person in the presence of the person making the arrest.

Stated another way “ a private citizen may use “reasonable and appropriate physical force upon another .. . when and to the extent he reasonably believes it necessary to effect an arrest,” 18-1-707(7), C.R.S..

What Does “In The Presence” Really Mean?

The requirement that the crime occur in the presence of the arresting person is met if the arrestor observes acts which are in themselves sufficiently indicative of a crime in the course of commission. A private citizen may use “reasonable and appropriate physical force upon another . . . when and to the extent he reasonably believes it necessary to effect an arrest,” § 18-1-707(7), C.R.S. 2011.

Can a Private Citizen Assist a Police Officer in Making an Arrest?

To answer this question we turn to 16-3-202:

16-3-202. Assisting peace officer arrest furnishing information immunity
  1. A peace officer making an arrest may command the assistance of any person who is in the vicinity.
  2. A person commanded to assist a peace officer has the same authority to arrest as the officer who commands his assistance.
  3. A person commanded to assist a peace officer in making an arrest shall not be civilly or criminally liable for any reasonable conduct in aid of the officer or for any acts expressly directed by the officer.
  4. Private citizens, acting in good faith, shall be immune from any civil liability for reporting to any police officer or law enforcement authority the commission or suspected commission of any crime or for giving other information to aid in the prevention of any crime.
Here Are Some of The Other Justifications For Using Force On Another

To look up these laws follow this LINK and plug in the statutory citation:

Justification and Exemptions from Criminal Responsibility In Colorado

Statutory citation Description of Law

  • 18-1-701. Execution of public duty.
  • 18-1-702. Choice of evils.
  • 18-1-703. Use of physical force special relationships.
  • 18-1-704. Use of physical force in defense of a person.
  • 18-1-704.5. Use of deadly physical force against an intruder.
  • 18-1-705. Use of physical force in defense of premises.
  • 18-1-706. Use of physical force in defense of property.
  • 18-1-707. Use of physical force in making an arrest or in preventing an escape.
  • 18-1-708. Duress.
  • 18-1-709. Entrapment.
  • 18-1-710. Affirmative defenses
Colorado Criminal Lawyer Series Citizen’s Arrest How DOES It Work? 16-3-201

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