Section 494 of the Canadian Criminal Code permits ordinary citizens to arrest anyone who is or have committed a criminal act. Nonetheless, there are certain limitations on a citizen’s ability to make an arrest. If possible, you should first report an ongoing or already done crime to the authorities instead of taking matters into your own hands. That’s because the police are well-equipped and trained to deal with such incidents.
Attempting to make a citizen’s arrest without carefully assessing the possible risk factors can have severe unintended repercussions for you and the rest of the people involved in the incident. In most cases, an arrest typically includes touching or seizing another individual’s body to detain them.
Before making a citizen’s arrest, you must know about the Citizen’s Arrest Laws and keep the following vital considerations in mind:
- Is it feasible for the law enforcement officer to intervene? If so, then report the crime to the authorities instead of arresting on your own
- You could compromise your safety and that of others by attempting the arrest. You should consider whether the suspect is alone and if they possess a firearm
- Can you turn over the accused to the authorities without delay after making the arrest?
- Do you have a reasonable belief about the defendant’s criminal conduct?
Making A Citizen’s Arrest
When making a citizen’s arrest, you should:
- Inform the accused plainly that you’re making an arrest and that you’re holding them until the police arrive
- Call the authorities
- Ask explicitly for their cooperation until the law enforcement officers arrive
- Don’t force the arrest, if possible, and use it to the minimum extent
- Do not question or search the defendant or their possessions – you should only attempt to detail them until the arrival of the police
- After the arrival of the police, state the simple facts about what happened
Understanding The Citizen’s Arrest Law
In most cases, you must find a suspect either committing an offence or escaping from and being pursued by the police to arrest the suspect, to make a citizen’s arrest lawfully. Especially, if you’re arresting a suspect for an indictable offence, you can only arrest the suspect at the time you witness them committing the crime. It’s against the law to arrest an individual after any lapse in time for having done an indictable offence unless it concerns your property.
Under exceptional circumstances, regarding any criminal offence being committed on or concerning your property, you may either;
- Arrest a suspect you find committing a felony; or
- Arrest a suspect within a reasonable time period after finding that the suspect was committing a crime
To make a lawful citizen’s arrest for a crime on or concerning your property, you must be one of the following;
- The property owner
- In legal possession of that property; or
- Have been allowed by the legal property owner
The citizen’s arrest law governs that you must deliver the arrested suspect to the authorities without wasting any time. If you make a citizen’s arrest and fail to contact the police as soon as possible, it might be ruled as an illegal arrest, resulting in you having to face civil or criminal charges.