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Citizen's Arrests: Introduction

Reviewed 1/9/2019


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Introduction

New Hampshire’s common law (also called case law or judge-made law) has long allowed private citizens to arrest persons whose actions threatened public order.  These cases make it clear that private persons can make warrantless arrests of those who have committed felonies, and those who have committed misdemeanor breaches of the peace in the presence of the arresting party. In addition to case law, there are some New Hampshire statutes that relate to private citizens having authority in limited situations to arrest someone else. 

Generally private citizens are discouraged from making arrests.  One reason is that when a citizen makes an arrest there are fewer constitutional protections for the offender, since citizens make arrests without warrants.  In addition, there are several serious potential risks for the citizen including possible criminal liability, violation of an offender’s constitutional rights if the citizen makes a mistake in the arrest, potential civil liability for torts (civil wrongs) the citizen might commit while making the arrest, and the risk of serious physical harm to the citizen.

Disclaimer

Please remember that this guide is for information purposes only and is not comprehensive.  It is intended as a starting point for research, to illustrate the various sources of the law, and to provide guidance in their use. NH Law About ... is not a substitute for the services of an attorney.