Citizen’s Arrest


The topics in the Dial-A-Law series provide only general information on legal issues within the province of Alberta. This service is provided by Calgary Legal Guidance funded in part by the Alberta Law Foundation. The purpose is to make you aware of your legal rights and responsibilities. This is not legal advice. If you require legal advice, you should contact a lawyer.

This topic discusses a citizen’s arrest; that is, an arrest by a person who is not a police officer.

Citizen’s arrest” is a form of arrest that does not involve a police officer. If you are involved in such an arrest, the arrested person, whom you have arrested must be dealt with by the police. You have no right to search or question the arrested person.

As a private citizen, you may arrest and detain a person in any of three situations:

  • If you find a person in the act of committing an indictable or hybrid offense. These are relatively serious criminal offences such as:
    • assault or sexual assault;
    • theft;
    • vandalism; and
    • impaired driving.
  • If you believe on reasonable grounds a person has committed such an offence;
  • If a person is escaping and is being chased by someone who has lawful authority to arrest.

To repeat, it is only if you find a person actually committing a serious crime, you believe on reasonable grounds that such a crime has occurred, or you actually see a police chase in progress.

Extreme care must be taken before making a citizen’s arrest. If you made an error and the arrest is wrongful, you can be sued by the victim. If force was used in the arrest, and if that force is extreme in the circumstances, you may face a criminal charge from the police. In all but extreme cases where there are no other reasonable option, you are better advised to report the matter to a police officer.