Laws for making a citizen's arrest - NBC Right Now/KNDO/KNDU Tri-Cities, Yakima, WA |

Laws for making a citizen's arrest

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SKYWAY, Wash. -- A citizen made an arrest in Skyway near Seatac this weekend. The passerby saw a shooting take place and decided to take the suspect into custody himself. Washington state law allows a citizen to make an arrest, but there are risks involved.

If citizens wants to take the law into their own hands, they are liable for their actions. State laws on making a citizen's arrest vary. In Washington, it also varies depending if the crime is a misdemeanor or a felony.

For a misdemeanor a private person can make a citizen's arrest if the citizen saw the crime happen. There also should be what is called a breach of the peace. Washington's Criminal Practice and Procedure explains it as there is some actual or potential disturbance of public order or provokes others to violence.

For a felony, a private person can make a citizen's arrest if he or she has probable cause. The citizen needs trustworthy information that the suspect committed the felony. The citizen does not have to see it happen.

Seattle's police and crime blog shows reasons why a citizen's arrest is risky. Safety is the main concern. Police want you to make sure passersby are safe before trying to protect others. Police go through hours of training, and they usually have better protection and back up if they need it. Police also operate under the color of law, which means they have the right uniform, vehicle and ID. It has to be clear a citizen is arresting someone, not assaulting.