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The “Citizen’s Arrest” in Florida

The standard for a valid “citizen’s arrest” is explained in McAnnis v. State, 386 So.2d 1230, 1232 (Fla. 3d DCA 1980) as follows:

  • A purpose or intention to effect an arrest under real or pretended authority;
  • An actual or constructive seizure or detention of the person to be arrested by a person having present power to control the person arrested;
  • A communication by the arresting officer to the person whose arrest is sought, of an intention or purpose then and there to effect an arrest; and
  • An understanding by the person whose arrest is sought that it is the intention of the arresting officer then and there to arrest and detain him.

The courts must sometimes determine when a citizen’s arrest is valid if the police take custody of the person without a warrant. If the citizen’s arrest is invalid, then evidence gathered as a result of the detention often becomes inadmissible in misdemeanor cases that are not exceptions to the warrant requirement.

Attorney on Citizen’s Arrest in Florida

If your arrest or prosecution involves evidence gathered as a result of a citizen’s arrest, then contact the experienced criminal defense attorneys at Sammis Law Firm. We understand the requirements for a warrantless arrest and how to file and litigate motions to exclude evidence when those rules are not followed.

Cases involving the so-called “citizen’s arrest” often create a host of usual legal issues. An attorney can help you decide the best way to fight the case.

Our main office is in downtown Tampa, FL. We have a second office in New Port Richey in Pasco County, FL.

Call 813-250-0500.


Can a Citizen Perform a Terry Style “Stops” or Detention?

What happens if a citizen makes a “traffic” stop out of concern for the well-being of the driver, along with an observed traffic infraction, and then “detains” the driver?

In Florida, there is no such thing as a citizen’s detention. The law is well-settled citizens lack the authority to detain and make an “arrest” for a civil traffic infraction and citizens cannot conduct a Terry style “stop” or detain a suspect. See State v. Earle, 17 Fla. L. Weekly Supp. 953a (Fla. 6th Jud. Cir. Ct. April 12, 2010).

In State v. Ryan, 18 Fla. L. Weekly Supp. 243b (Fla. 18th Jud. Cir. Ct. Dec. 2, 2010), the court found “no testimony that [the officer] intended to affect a citizen’s arrest. . . . [T]he Defendant was subjected to a citizen’s stop that is not part of a lawful citizen’s arrest. Citizens have no authority to make stops for traffic infractions nor do they have authority to conduct investigations. Sobrino stands for the proposition that when an extra jurisdictional police officer stops a defendant without intending to arrest him, the stop is illegal.”)


Requirements for a Citizen’s Arrest for DUI in Florida

A private citizen can effect a citizen’s arrest for DUI which is considered a breach of the peace. Edwards v. State, 462 So.2d 581 (Fla 4th DCA), rev. denied, 475 So. 2d 694 (Fla. 1985).

The courts have found that “unless the driving pattern is so egregious as to be a breach of the peace in and of itself, beyond that of a traffic infraction, there is no basis for a valid citizen’s arrest.” State v. Little, 28 Fla. L. Weekly Supp. 229b (May 5, 2020).

In those cases, if the citizen’s stop or detention was not justified, then the citizen’s arrest is invalid and the Motion to Suppress should be granted. As a result, all evidence gathered from the stop and detention is inadmissible as tainted fruit of the poisonous tree.

Some courts have held that taking the keys to the Defendant’s vehicle is a form of detention and can be equivalent to an arrest. See Sturman v. City of Golden Beach, 355 So. 2d 453 (Fla 3d DCA 1978), Larkin v. State, 3 Fla. L. Weekly Supp. 8c (Fla. 9th Cir. Ct. Jan. 17, 1995).

Pursuant to Section 316.1932, Florida Statutes, a lawful arrest is a prerequisite to the collection of a breath sample under implied consent. Therefore, if the Defendant was not lawfully arrested, any evidence collected from the Defendant after his physical arrest by law enforcement must be suppressed, including but not limited to any Defendant statements and the results of the Defendant’s breath test.


This article was last updated on Friday, September 19, 2020.

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