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By Jim Rendon

Since 1872, Californians have had the right to arrest one another, regardless of whether anyone is wearing a badge. This seems like a questionable idea, but most states have some version of what is commonly known as citizen's arrest.

But don't look to the penal code for guidance. According to the five lines devoted to the subject, people outside law enforcement have the right to arrest someone under a few pretty broad circumstances: When he or she sees a suspect commit a crime, when that person has committed a felony, or when a citizen has a good reason to think that someone else has committed a felony.

These arrests, called private person's arrests by law-enforcement officials (since anyone, not just U.S. citizens, can do it) are rare. Sgt. Derrick Edwards, the public information officer with the San Jose Police Department, says that, in his 17 years on the force, he's only seen this kind of arrest go down a few times.

"I recommend that no one put themselves in jeopardy to effect an arrest," Edwards says.

Essentially what is required is not that different from the wrap up of just about any TV crime drama: Hold the suspect until the police arrive. This may take a little convincing because, technically, the suspect has no reason to listen to you. "The best thing would be to just call 911 and let us provide the service we are paid to provide," Edwards says.


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From the March 16-22, 2000 issue of Metro, Silicon Valley's Weekly Newspaper.

Copyright © 2000 Metro Publishing Inc. Metroactive is affiliated with the Boulevards Network.

For more information about the San Jose/Silicon Valley area, visit sanjose.com.

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