Are Citizen's Arrests Legal?

Curtist Sliwa is an activist and the founder of the Guardian Angels, a volunteer anti-crime organization. Founded in 1979 in New York, the group now leads unarmed safety patrols and spearheads educational programs in over 140 cities around the world. In 1992, Sliwa was ambushed by two gunmen from inside a stolen taxi in New York; he managed to escape but was shot repeatedly. John A. Gotti, son of the late Gambino family crime boss John Gotti, was charged with conspiring to murder Sliwa, but the case ended in a mistrial. Sliwa is currently a conservative radio talk show host.

  • Transcript

TRANSCRIPT

Question: Is it legal to perform a citizen's arrest?

Curtis Sliwa:  Well first off if you talk to the brainiacs you know with their parchments and public safety from Ivy League schools or even from junior colleges they’ll swear to you that citizen arrest is a vigilante act.  I’ve been with police superintendants.  I’ve been in think tanks and these so called, "police scientists" will tell me it’s a vigilante act.  You don’t have to argue with them, but it’s in the penal code.  It’s been written about.  It’s been embedded into the fabric of law since the Magna Carta in England and can be seen in virtually laws written all over the world because we have Guardian Angels now in 14 countries, 140 cities, so I’m well versed in it and it gives you a much wider leeway and breadth of activity where you can physically intervene than it would even allow the police officer because the courts assume that a police officer as he or she is, is a trained police professional who has gone to the academy and they know the differences between violations, misdemeanors, felonies and the use of force. Whereas the citizen is assumed and rightfully so not to be as expert, so if they decide to intervene as long as it is within the parameters of what they can do, guess what?  I can use more force than a police officer can.

And whereas a police department is represented by a municipality, a county or a state government so it’s assumed they have big pockets.  You know they’re a big fat cow ready to be brought to the slaughter house by the liars for hire, the spin doctors who are ambulance chasers by day and go at night to funeral parlors giving out business cards practicing their Martial Art, I sue.  They’re looking to sue obviously for the most minor of indiscretions against the police officer, but when it comes to a citizen who doesn’t have two nickels to rub together and throws them around like manhole covers they’re not as willing to go in that direction. 

So is it a reality?  Can you be sued?  Is it something that in which you inherit upon yourself, potential danger to yourself, danger to somebody else, civil liability, criminal liability?  Of course, but it shouldn’t give you an Ex-Lax attack and make you fear to the point where you’re frozen solid as a result of your inability to respond as a Good Samaritan should do.  Now, having applied it now hundreds, thousands of times in venues all over the world I can tell you this: It’s a Chinese menu. There are three ways to do it and I’ve become very proficient in doing it so much so that in 31 years we haven’t been sued once for making a citizen’s arrest even though we’ve done thousands of interventions, hundreds of citizen’s arrests, where lawyers would love to have a notch of the Guardian Angels on their belt just for the tabloid headlines that it would create for their legal business and yet that hasn’t happened.

Recorded on July 8, 2010

Interviewed by Max Miller


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