It might seem like something out of a Wild West movie, but a Citizen's Arrest remains a very real and active piece of legislation throughout the United States today.
What is a Citizen's Arrest?
In short, the idea behind a Citizen's Arrest is that one private citizen may "arrest" another engaged in a serious crime or illegal activity. What's interesting, however, is how the parameters vary from state-to-state.
According to Wex Legal Dictionary, in Texas, a citizen's arrest statute dictates one private citizen may only arrest "someone that is committing a felony or an offense against the public peace in front of them." Likewise in California, the statute indicates a private citizen has the right to arrest someone "for a a public offense committed or attempted in their presence."
Idaho's Citizen's Arrest Law is...Unique
Then there's Idaho. According to 19-604 found in Title 19 Criminal Procedure, Chapter 6 "Arrest, By Whom & How Made" in the Idaho Legislature, as of 1 Jul. 2022, a private citizen has the power to arrest another for the following reasons:
1. For a public offense committed or attempted in his presence.2. When the person arrested has committed a felony, although not in his presence.3. When a felony has been in fact committed, and he has reasonable cause for believing the person arrested to have committed it.
The first reason resonates as a, "see something, say something," scenario, and that's fine by us. It's the second and third reasons we take exception to.
Regarding the second point, how is it legal and dandy for one Idahoan to arrest another for a crime that didn't occur in their presence? That's like a parent who grounds their kid for something the nosey neighbor told them they did. Then there's the third point, which allows an Idahoan to arrest another based upon mere belief or feeling.
If you ask us, the third scenario is the scariest of them all! The very idea that someone can arrest anyone based on a hunch or a gut feeling is the antithesis of due process. What's stopping vengeful ex-lovers, disgruntled employers, etc. from ruining your life? All things considered, should we be worried about Idaho's fast and loose application of a Citizen's Arrest?