How far can a citizen take law into his own hands? - FMVperformance.com : The site for all your Ford Mazda and Volvo needs
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post #1 of 43 (permalink) Old 09-03-2008, 07:57 PM Thread Starter
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How far can a citizen take law into his own hands?

This thought sprung into my mind today on the way home from work.

Background:
An uncle of mine was killed instantly in a head on collision. To all our knowledge, was involuntarily due to medical conditions which caused him to lose control of the vehicle. Prior to the collision, multiple phone calls were made to local law enforcement to locate his vehicle due to irratic driving behavior, although at normal speeds. Since this event, I have made special note to any vehicles which I see creating reasonably unsafe conditions, and will phone in for law enforcement to investigate. My experience simply showed me that not every incident of unsafe driving is intentional, and NOT making the call could take innocent lives.

Story:
On the way home from work, I was passed by an Infiniti G35 Sedan. I was traveling 58mph on cruise control and estimated their speed to be near 90+ and increasing down a small rolling hill. The highway was wide open, so in this case I could care less if someone is out for a joy ride only endangering themselves. Unfortunately for him/her, a Maryland state trooper was in the oncoming cluster of cars and has an equally or more powerful engine which ended up passing me even faster and locating the G35 in my local community! (ooo the irony!)

It brought me to this, what authority does a normal citizen have in instances of reckless driving/endangerment. I have seen instances where one can announce a citizen's arrest of an intoxicated/incoherent driver. Is it legal to speed up to a chase speed in order to assist the police in locating a vehicle until law enforcement catches up? Is it legal for one citizen to 'pull over' another for unlawful driving? Where is the line drawn?

Matt
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post #2 of 43 (permalink) Old 09-03-2008, 08:09 PM
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Re: How far can a citizen take law into his own hands?

from what ive noticed im pretty sure if you speed up they will think you are partaking in said adventure. now if the police are already chasing them and you are up the road and help i dont think its an issue.

in general though im fairly sure the police just want everyone to stay out of the way and let them handle it.

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post #3 of 43 (permalink) Old 09-03-2008, 08:12 PM
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Re: How far can a citizen take law into his own hands?

I don't think the police would like it very much if you were to speed up and attempt to chase down a car for them. It gets in the way of their job, and it can make the situation even more dangerous than it already is since there are now two cars driving recklessly. Not to mention, the person in the first car might see you and drive even faster. Let the police do their jobs. Calling in to report a driver is alright, but I think that taking it into your own hands and attempting to chase them down is a going a little too far.
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post #4 of 43 (permalink) Old 09-03-2008, 08:13 PM
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Re: How far can a citizen take law into his own hands?

[quote author=rhyick link=topic=122444.msg2586787#msg2586787 date=1220487126]
I don't think the police would like it very much if you were to speed up and attempt to chase down a car for them. It gets in the way of their job, and it can make the situation even more dangerous than it already is since there are now two cars driving recklessly. Not to mention, the person in the first car might see you and drive even faster. Let the police do their jobs. Calling in to report a driver is alright, but I think that taking it into your own hands and attempting to chase them down is a going a little too far.
[/quote]

+1 exactly my thought process

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post #5 of 43 (permalink) Old 09-03-2008, 08:34 PM
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Re: How far can a citizen take law into his own hands?

If I may chime in; If someone's driving 90+ mph and recklessly at that, what makes you think that they will maintain self control if you can stop them and confront them? Sounds dangerous on many fronts. Let the law handle it.

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post #6 of 43 (permalink) Old 09-03-2008, 09:01 PM
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Re: How far can a citizen take law into his own hands?

I pick up the cell phone and report it.
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post #7 of 43 (permalink) Old 09-03-2008, 09:32 PM Thread Starter
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Re: How far can a citizen take law into his own hands?

I feel I need to clarify more.

By joining the chase, what I'm essentially getting at would be more in the form of following the vehicle until police come to intervene. I imagine it would be a rare or possibly never occuring situation to have someone actually pull over if individually I ('I' being anyone) attempted to pull them over.

My question is more the legality of the attempt to pull someone over for reckless driving versus the actually act of pulling someone over as merely a citizen.
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post #8 of 43 (permalink) Old 09-03-2008, 11:35 PM
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Re: How far can a citizen take law into his own hands?

[quote author=cymx5 link=topic=122444.msg2587001#msg2587001 date=1220491964]
I feel I need to clarify more.

By joining the chase, what I'm essentially getting at would be more in the form of following the vehicle until police come to intervene. I imagine it would be a rare or possibly never occuring situation to have someone actually pull over if individually I ('I' being anyone) attempted to pull them over.

My question is more the legality of the attempt to pull someone over for reckless driving versus the actually act of pulling someone over as merely a citizen.
[/quote]

If they were driving slowly (i.e. drunk swerving), I wouldn't see a big problem with following them while keeping some distance, but I don't think chasing someone going 90 mph down the highway would be very safe.
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post #9 of 43 (permalink) Old 09-04-2008, 08:54 AM
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Re: How far can a citizen take law into his own hands?

Well if the person wants to stop for you it is perfectly legal. If you are speeding, swerving, cutting them off or slamming on your brakes in front of them, let alone sideswiping them, pitting them, etc then that is patently illegal. Be careful as well, making a citizens arrest can border on kidnapping or unlawful restraint. In the case of someone you suspect is intoxicated if it proves they are not and you are detaining them or took posession of their keys/vehicle to prevent them from leaving then you had no basis for doing so and you could potentially be charged. You maybe wouldn't depending on the circumstances, but you would be on thin legal ground.

I think if the circumstances warrant it you could get away with a great many sins. For example you saw a hit and run and you followed the hit and run vehicle until police could arrive you could probably get away with anything short of actually causing an accident. Especially if the hit and run involved bodily injury or death. Just like the citizens arrest case of someone you suspect is intoxicated, that is thin legal ground, but if the person just knocked over a bank and you tackle them and restrain them, heck even if you beat the crap out of them to subdue them you could probably get away with it. Though considering America's screwed up legal climate you might get a civil lawsuit.
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post #10 of 43 (permalink) Old 09-04-2008, 09:27 AM
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Re: How far can a citizen take law into his own hands?

Azazel makes a great point, and I agree with him 100%.

Please though, let us handle it. One person driving 90+mph is unsafe as it is, having another one doing the same only doubles the odds of a motor vehicle accident. Law Enforcement Officers are trained to handle these type of situations, a phone call is a job well done.

As for citizens arrest, I highly advise you not to do so. Their are a lot of legal practicalites that follow along with it.

The BEST thing a citizen can do, is to get a description.

I mean no hard feelings for what I post on this website. Anything I type/write/post/say on this forum is only that of general debate and discussion. I am not biased toward anyone or anything. I am neutral in everything I do on this website. Only those facts that are presented to me sway my thought process and siding of each discussion topic that I post about.
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