Follow Up to a Citizen’s Arrest

My previous post on a citizen’s arrest got me thinking, how could someone truly effect a citizen’s arrest in Pennsylvania?

In Philadelphia County you can go to 34 South 11th Street, on the Municipal Court side of the building about file a Private Criminal Complaint. In the private criminal complain, you must state the facts of whatever happened and the person you accused may be prosecuted if you continue on with the process throughout court. The District Attorney’s office may even adopt the prosecution if they feel it is warranted. Usually the private criminal complaint process doesn’t go too far, but I have seen people convicted of criminal acts from a private criminal complaint.

1 Comment on Follow Up to a Citizen’s Arrest

  1. The idea that citizens are responsible for policing their communities dates back to before the Norman Conquest of 1066, when the sheriff, or “Shire Reeve,” could call on any free male subject to serve on a posse. Free male subjects were expected to constrain felons and in some cases to administer justice. Once a representative of the king declared someone to be an “out-law,” anyone could kill or capture that person without further intercession from the authorities.

    Police forces are actually a relatively recent development: Up through early 19th-century America, the only forces were private ones hired by the wealthy to protect their interests. In the tradition of British common law, it was considered a citizen’s duty to step in and make an arrest when he witnessed a crime. Magistrates and sheriffs were employed to help citizens process criminals; it was not the job of the former to catch the latter.

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