By Jim Frazier

The recent journey by Gary Faulker to Pakistan to arrest Osama Bin Laden brings up questions about citizen arrest.

“Actually citizens have more powers of arrest than police,” said Hal Von Luebbert, a former police officer who trains people in arrest techniques. “Citizens delegate their authority to police with all kinds of restrictions, but the power resides within each adult citizen to conduct arrests anywhere in the nation.” Arresting people in another nation is not recommended by Von Luebbert. “The powers are for American citizens within our own national borders,” he said.

What are the laws and rules? “Actually, citizen arrest is a duty,” Von Luebbert said. “If you are an adult, and you witness a crime, your duty is to make an arrest. You need to be the eye-witness. You cannot act on hearsay. But if you see a crime being committed, you are obligated to make an arrest during the crime or soon after.”

“A police officer cannot make an arrest outside his limited jurisdiction,” Von Luebbert explained. “And they can be sued for false arrest.” As a citizen, you can arrest anyone, anywhere in America, and again — it is your duty as a citizen to make the arrest. You can call the police for help, but you do not need to ask for help.”

Von Luebbert, a former police officer and detective in Iowa, trained Texas sheriff officers in arrest techniques. He advises that any arrest to halt a crime or arrest a criminal is dangerous. “This is not something you do without serious consideration. You need to realize that an arrest is not a conviction. The person you arrest is presumed innocent until proven guilty in a court of law. Your job is to take him to a judge, to a courthouse, or police officer, and present your evidence. That’s it. If you don’t have good evidence, the criminal can be set free, but a judge will decide what happens next — not you. A date for a hearing will be set, and the person may be released immediately, or held for awhile, or placed in jail without bond. It all depends on the facts, the crime, and the evidence you present.”

Good evidence may be a video, photographs, physical objects, sound recordings, fingerprints, DNA, blood, and witness testimony including your own. “The same rules of evidence apply whether you are the police or a citizen. Get your evidence at the time of the crime,” he said. “Don’t delay.”

“A police officer can take off a badge and uniform and make a citizen arrest as a citizen,” he said. “This is done outside a policeman’s jurisdiction more often than you might know. That’s fine,” he said. “Like you, they have to testify in court as a citizen.”

“There is a dark side to consider,” Von Luebbert warned. Police control a crime scene and gather evidence. “If you are arrested for a crime and you are truly innocent, call a detective immediately and get them into the crime scene so they can obtain evidence immediately. Police sometimes hide evidence or slightly change evidence that might cast doubt on a conviction,” he said. “They can become overly eager to get a conviction. Just remember that any bad lawyer can win a case with good evidence. Get a detective into the scene immediately to tell your side of the story with evidence.”

Von Lubbert is not a lawyer and advises anyone considering an arrest to check with local authorities and to check state laws. “It’s much better to call the police, but what if your criminal is the police captain, or the district attorney, or the sheriff, then what do you do?  What if the criminal is a big name politician, like a senator?”

If the police, sheriff, or FBI refuses to arrest a political figure that you know has committed a crime, and you witnessed the crime, then you can make an arrest. But how? When? Where?

“Doesn’t matter when or where,” Von Luebbert said. “As an American citizen, you are not bound by jurisdictions within the borders of America. This is what your “citizen power” is all about. This is the power given to citizens to control their government if absolutely necessary.” But check the state’s rules, he advised.

How?  “You assemble a group of friends, the larger the group the better. The only weapons you need are shotguns. That is what the police use. You don’t fire them. You announce loudly that you are placing the person under arrest. Tell them why, and affirm to them that they won’t be harmed. Then gently and carefully take them directly to a judge or courthouse. Present your evidence and make your charges in a formal complaint. That’s it. Go home. You’re done. Let the system handle the rest of the process.”

Many questions exist, like what happens if the person resists.

Von Luebbert has written a book, CITIZEN POWER NOW on how to conduct Citizen Arrest, how to convene a Grand Jury, and how to use Guerilla Law tactics in the courtroom.

More information can be obtained at

Here is the Colorado law.

Colorado Revised Statutes Title 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.

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.
  Source: L. 72: R&RE, p. 199, § 1. C.R.S. 1963: § 39-3-201.
  Am.Jur.2d. See 5 Am.Jur.2d, Arrest, §§ 56, 57.
  C.J.S. See 6A C.J.S., Arrest, §§ 10-13.
  Law reviews. For comment, "Leake v. Cain: Abrogation of Public Duty
Doctrine in Colorado?", see 59 U. Colo. L. Rev. 383 (1988).
  Annotator's note. Since § 16-3-201 is similar to repealed § 39-2-20,
C.R.S. 1963, relevant cases construing that provision have been included
in the annotations to this section.
  A private citizen may arrest for any crime committed in his presence.
Schiffner v. People, 173 Colo. 123, 476 P.2d 756 (1970).
  Officer outside of jurisdiction arrests with authority of private
citizen. A peace officer acting outside the territorial limits of his
jurisdiction does not have any less authority to arrest than does a person who is a private citizen. People v. Wolf, 635 P.2d 213 (Colo. 1981).
  When "in presence" requirement met. The "in presence" requirement
of this section is met if the arrestor observes acts which are in
themselves sufficiently indicative of a crime in the course of commission. People v. Olguin, 187 Colo. 34, 528 P.2d 234 (1974).
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  1. bob says:

    Any of you bastards try to arrest me and we will see about trouble!

  2. Mary Adams says:

    You are more likely to be charged yourself, like old Walt Fitzy and his sidekick than make a successful arrest.

    You’re also likely to get your a@# sued.

  3. Hal von Luebbert says:

    The fact is that literally tens of thousands of citizens arrest of illegal aliens have already occurred. One ranch has made 12,000 citizens arrests successfully. The guy who arrested six illegal aliens at gunpoint,. Sgt Patrick Haab, was not only successful, but when the federal government had him arrested by the county, he sued for false arrest and won a $300.000 judgment.

    In the U.S., you can be sued for literally anything, what you say, do, even think. Freedom has never been free. But most states’ law prohibits suit for citizens arrest; more, suits of that sort are all but impossible to win. That’s because all the citizen needs for valid arrest is what is called “probable cause.” If a reasonable person would believe a crime has been committed, he may – and must – make a citizens arrest. You can also be sued by a victim of the crime for failing to make an effort to stop it.

    The easiest way to answer, however, is to recommend looking up Operation MOCKINGBIRD. Nothing could demonstrate the media’s effort to keep the public ignorant of the law and of economics (quick, how does a dollar come into being legally) than the staggering ignorance of the public concerning the law under which they live. Why don’t you know the law of citizens arrest? Why don’t you know the ruled of evidence? Etc.

    Consider the case of Lieutenant Ehren Watada, the soldier who refused deployment to Iraq. What, after all the media “feeding frenzy” and uproar, happened? Why were the charges dropped? Why didn’t Watada (or anyone else involved) write the book that everyone who becomes a celebrity writes? I know, and perfectly well – why don’t you? Why doesn’t the media tell you? Does the Watada story tell you about the reason no one knows of all those successful citizens’ arrests?

    Maybe it would also be a good idea to watch on YouTube (or elsewhere) the speech of Howard Beale, the news anchor in the movie “Network.” Television is a massive, mind and opinion control lie, as it the media in general. That you are unaware merely demonstrates how powerful state of the art, government-run propaganda is.

    Think about it. Do some research. As Beale say, the only way to know the truth is learn it for yourself.

  4. Hal von Luebbert says:

    And. “Bob,” resisting a legal citizens arrest is the same crime as resisting the legal arrest of a police officer. Commit a crime in my presence, you will be arrested (and I have made many, many arrests). It’s a civic duty, just like the one I do when I pick up trash and put it in public recepticles every day.

  5. terry says:

    If you are the one who’s public conduct drove a citizen to feel the duty to arrest you, then it is substantially more likely you are a basterd, in fact. Trash must be picked up by every decent citizen or every home would be covered by that trash found blowing in the wind. Pick your side.

  6. Jason says:

    It’s amazing how much important information is omitted from high school civics class.

  7. Bob Blunt (Police Agent Retired) says:

    There are a rising number of “orders” given by police officers that are not permitted. Some orders have been ignored by citizens, they are arrested and perhaps a lower court feels the need to support local LEO’s and finds the citizen guilty. Some of these have been appealed and the conviction overturned by the Colo.
    I was called to an accident scene involving my car driven by my adult kid and a fireman started yelling in my face (he was there because they roll a pumper and ambulance together). I always carry large wire ties in my belt loops for handcuffs. I let him vent for a while and told him that if he wanted to experience something bad that if he touched me I would arrest him, subdue him on the ground and cuff him. The cops on scene were unknown to me and just kept investigating the accident.
    The fireman had no authority on the scene and was ignoring the other driver (the one at fault) in the EMT bus. So I told him to do his job and take her to the ER. He went to talk to my son and my son advised him not to mess with me–he was picking on the wrong guy.
    I may have to arrest a cop and haul him out to the Sheriff’s Office. That will be a little more dicey because Colorado has a statute stating you cannot disarm a peace officer. But if the cop is violating the law, especially as my house, he may be going down. I’d like IA to take care of it but sometimes……….

  8. Truth Matters says:

    Hal von Luebbert,

    That’s a load of crap if you actually look at the law. Unlike resisting an arrest by a police officer, it is NOT illegal to resist a citizen’s arrest, EVEN IF the citizen’s arrest is legal. So if a citizen arrests someone, even if it is perfectly legit like for felony he just witnessed, it is perfectly legal for that person to run away (he of course cannot assault the citizen in the process).

  9. Gary Perkins says:

    I’ve been brushing up on the laws regarding this, and it looks like you can use reasonable force to detain someone:

    The Supreme Court, in a unanimous decision, held that the inspector had properly arrested Asante-Mensah. In reference to R. v. Whitfield, the Court held that a citizen’s arrest at common law allows for a use of “reasonable force”. This includes reasonable force necessary to undertake the arrest and maintain it.
    — Wikipedia, R. v. Asante-Mensah

    It makes sense. Why should someone who just killed another person in front of us be able to run away from me and my friends? And it’s not much of an arrest or detainment if I can’t prevent someone from leaving. As well, my local law (Texas) specifies that if I do arrest someone, then whoever has custody of the person (not necessarily the arresting person) must present them within 48hrs to a magistrate.

    On a side note, I find that last part a little bit interesting. I wonder if anyone’s ever tested that time limit, such as for questioning or investigating.

  10. Wolf says:

    To truth matters. Read Colorado revised statute 16-3-201 for yourself. It is a legal arrest. Period. And interestingly, it does not define reasonable force, unlike the police have, it does not require mirandizing, unlike police, and it leaves out virtually every other limit a cop has. The only “freedom” a cop has that is prevented by the statute is that it must be an offence committed in the arresting persons presence… Interestingly enough, considering I live in Denver’s district 6 precinct, is Bob Blunts comment concerning police…

  11. Blunt says:

    2015–Luebbert–1)Colorado Citizen Arrest Law has no felony requirement so where are you? 2)Correct that the arrestee MAY try to run away but that happens to LEO’s too. Very seldom can a LEO justify shooting a fleeing suspect–and you’re assuming that a suspect would even TRY to escape! I never stated that “excessive force” was recommended but I have been trained in hand-to-hand combat by Uncle Sam and 3 city PD’s.

    Look at some of the postings of a Colorado attorney, H. Michael Steinberg below and you will discover that the only “crap” is in your post. Of course you could use a decent browser like Dogpile and type in–State of Colorado Website or even State of Colorado Supreme Court. There is a link on those sites to Colorado Revised Statutes. Once there look up Title 16 and Title 18.

    When Making A Colorado Citizen’s Arrest – Some Additional Thoughts
    When you think about it – the Colorado citizen in some cases actually has MORE POWER TO ARREST THAN POLICE (Caps added–BB) in some situations. Every citizen can make an arrest anywhere in the country. The police power is limited for the most part to their jurisdiction. If they make a mistake – they can sued for “false arrest.” If the police leave their jurisdiction – they are relegated to the same authority as the average citizen.
    Remember – you must witness a crime that is taken place around you or be sufficiently capable of connecting the arrest with a crime very recently committed. Like the police – you must have “probable cause” for the arrest. So if you see a man punch a woman in a bar – you have the right to restrain that man and prevent his leaving the bar until the police arrive and you can use reasonable force to detain that individual.

    You can only use that amount of force required to detain the person until the police arrive. Like every instance of the use of force to make an arrest – you CANNOT use a greater amount of force that is necessary and you should never harm the alleged perpetrator unless it is absolutely necessary.

    The police cannot use excessive force to make an arrest and neither can you.

    There is also the danger – in making a citizen’s arrest that – if you identify yourself as a police officer – you could be charged with impersonating a police officer as well as other charges such as false imprisonment, kidnapping, wrongful arrest, assault and or battery.

    Recap – Colorado’s Law Of Self Defense and The Colorado Citizen’s Arrest
    In Colorado, a private citizen may arrest another when the arrested person commits or has committed a crime in the presence of the person making the arrest. § 16-3-201, C.R.S.

    The same law applies to both a citizen’s arrest and a police officer making an arrest – A citizen and a peace officer attempting or making an arrest are “justified in using reasonable and appropriate physical force.” to make an arrest § 18-1-707(1)(a), C.R.S. 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.
    BUT self-defense is only permissible whenever a person reasonably believes they are facing the use or imminent use of unlawful physical force.

    18-1-704(1). Because of this rule of law – the right to self-defense as against the citizen making the arrest applies only when the person being arrested by that private citizen reasonably believes that the force used or threatened by that private citizen exceeds the amount of force a private citizen is permitted to use to make a lawful citizen’s arrest.

    Put another way – the reasonable use of the defense of self defense it the person being arrested in the situation of a citizen’s arrest reasonably believed that he was being unlawfully assaulted. A jury is instructed in this situation looks at the reasonableness of the defendant’s belief in the need to take defensive action and must consider the totality of the circumstances, including the perceptions of the person being arrested. (Once subdued by the arresting citizen some restraint like wire ties protects both–that’s why I have them but have never come close to using them since retirement–BB)

    18-1-704 Use Of Physical Force In Defense Of A Person
    1. Except as provided in subsections (2) and (3) of this section, a person is justified in using physical force upon another person in order to defend himself or a third person in order to defend himself or a third person from what he reasonably believes to be the use or imminent use of unlawful physical force by that other person, and he may use a degree of force which he reasonably believes to be necessary for that purpose.

    Understanding Colorado’s Citizen’s Arrest Law 16-3-201- How Far Does It Go?
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    ABOUT THE AUTHOR: H. Michael Steinberg – Email The Author at – A Denver Colorado Criminal Defense Lawyer – or call his office at 303-627-7777 during business hours – or call his cell if you cannot wait and need his immediate assistance – 720-220-2277. Attorney H. Michael Steinberg is passionate about criminal defense. His extensive knowledge and experience of Colorado Criminal Law gives him the edge you need to properly handle your case.

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