Citizen’s Arrest: What You Need to Know About Arrests by a Private Person (NRS 171.126)

Believe it or not, it is perfectly legal in Nevada for a private citizen with no law enforcement experience to arrest another if a crime has been committed.

There are two circumstances where a private person may place someone under a citizen’s arrest:

  1. The suspect committed a misdemeanor or a gross misdemeanor crime in the presence of the arresting citizen. That means the arresting person witnessed the actual crime.
  2. The suspect committed a felony apparently known to the arresting person. The arresting person did not have to witness the felony though.

Even though it is legal to use the citizen’s arrest law to place someone under arrest for criminal activity, it is only legal to use as much force as reasonably necessary to detain the person.

The use of deadly force can get the arresting person charged with a crime if not acting in self-defense.

If you execute an illegal citizen’s arrest, you may face criminal charges for false arrest.

You may be sent to jail, and made to pay fines and restitution to the person who was falsely arrested.

Since conducting a citizen’s arrest might seem like the right thing to do at the time, people should tread lightly as they could end up in trouble for trying to do the right thing.

Always consult with a lawyer when involved in any legal matters that result in arrest whether you’re the suspect or the citizen making the arrest.

What Is the Legal Definition of a Citizen‘s Arrest in Nevada?

A citizen’s arrest or arrest by a private person is when a citizen who is not a member of law enforcement places a suspected criminal under arrest for a suspected crime.

In most cases, the private citizen orders the suspect to freeze and stay where they are or they may typically restrain the suspect while waiting for the police to arrive and take over.

When Private Citizens Can Make Arrest in Nevada

There are three situations when private citizens can arrest another according to NRS 171.126:

  1. The suspect committed any crime in the citizen’s presence. The person doing the arrest actually witnessed the suspect breaking the law;
  2. The suspect committed a felony crime, even if the arresting person did not witness the crime; or
  3. A felony has been committed, the arresting person has a reasonable belief the suspect committed it.

A citizen’s arrest can be made in almost any situation except when the suspect commits a misdemeanor or gross misdemeanor outside the presence of the arresting person.

In Nevada, a warrant is not required for a citizen’s arrest, and there are no restrictions on the time period for making such an arrest.

Citizen’s Arrest and Use of Force

As the law states, a private citizen may not use any more force than reasonably necessary to conduct a citizen’s arrest.

If the suspect surrenders and does not resist or try to run, then the arresting person just remains with the suspect until the police arrive. Any other force is deemed unnecessary and can be considered a crime in itself.

So if the person doesn’t resist, you have no right to use force or beat them up.

There is only one time when force is acceptable during a private citizen’s arrest and that is if the arresting person or others are in danger of serious bodily injury.

Deadly force is never permitted unless there is a grave danger to you and others.

Shopkeeper’s Privilege in Nevada

In Nevada, shopkeepers have special circumstances against thieves.

A shopkeeper may take suspected shoplifters into custody and detain them in a reasonable manner until law enforcement arrives.

In some cases, shoplifters may be let go by a store owner as long as the goods that were stolen were returned.

A shopkeeper will not be held civilly or criminally responsible for detaining a suspect as long as this notice is conspicuously displayed in the store (visible for everyone to see).

“Any merchant or his or her agent who has reason to believe that merchandise has been wrongfully taken by a person may detain such person on the premises of the merchant for the purpose of recovering the property or notifying a peace officer. An adult or the parents or legal guardian of a minor who steals merchandise is civilly liable for its value and additional damages.”

—  NRS 597.850-870

This sign must be on display at the time of the crime and citizen’s arrest by a merchant.

Penalties for Unlawful Citizen’s Arrest in Nevada

If you attempt a citizen’s arrest and it is found to be unlawful you may face criminal charges based on the circumstances of the arrest.

The most common charges that a suspect may face for a false citizen’s arrest are:

  1. False imprisonment: NRS 200.460 false imprisonment occurs when you deprive another of freedom of movement. For example, holding someone down to keep them while waiting for the police can be considered false imprisonment. If you use a weapon like a gun or a knife to force someone to stay where they are during an illegal citizen’s arrest you may be guilty of a class B felony that is punishable by up to 6 years in state prison. In most cases not involving a weapon, false imprisonment is a gross misdemeanor with penalties of up to one year in jail and /or up to $2000 in fines.
  2. Assault with a deadly weapon: NRS 200.471(2) (B) Using a gun or other dangerous object to place another person in reasonable fear of bodily harm. Using a gun during a false citizen’s arrest may be considered assault with a deadly weapon. Assault with a deadly weapon is  a class B felony with penalties ranging from one to six years in prison and/or up to $5000 in fines
  3. Impersonation of an officer: NRS 199.430 when someone defrauds another by passing him/herself off as a public officer including police officers. If someone passes themselves off as a peace or police officer during a false citizen’s arrest, you may be guilty of impersonation of an officer. This is a gross misdemeanor in Nevada and is punishable by up to one year in jail and/ or up to $2000 in fines.

A person making a false citizen’s arrest may be convicted of other crimes but may also have to pay restitution to the victims of the false arrest.

Do I Need a Lawyer?

If you have been arrested or charged with making a false citizen’s arrest you may be facing more serious charges that can affect your future.

Maybe you thought you were doing a good thing for the good of the public but it all went wrong.

You need a defense team that can investigate the case and come up with the best possible outcome.

The Defenders Is Here to Help You!

At The Defenders, we understand the seriousness of false citizen’s arrest charges and we take them just as seriously.

Our goal is to get all of our clients’ charges either dropped or reduced.

But to get charges dropped or reduced, you need to act now.

If you have been charged with making a false citizen’s arrest call The Defenders today for a consultation.

Our attorneys are experienced and knowledgeable about defending against various criminal charges. We know the laws and will work hard to protect your rights and achieve the best possible outcome for your case.

Don’t wait until it’s too late, contact The Defenders now and let us fight for you!

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