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Can Officers Without Jurisdiction Perform DUI Stops as a “Citizen’s Arrest?”

On Behalf of | Sep 27, 2017 | DUI Defense

Police officers have limited authority to conduct traffic stops when they encounter a driver suspected of DUI outside of their jurisdiction. Sometimes a “mutual aid agreement” between municipalities will allow police officers to make traffic stops and arrests outside of their city limits. An officer can also conduct a traffic stop if they are in “fresh pursuit” of a fleeing felon or misdemeanant from their own jurisdiction. Finally, a police officer may justify an out-of-jurisdiction stop as a “citizen arrest,” based on their authority, not as a police officer, but as a private citizen.

The citizen arrest is a common law right held by private citizens to arrest a person who commits a felony or breach of the peace in their presence. While many DUI offenses are misdemeanors, a drunk or reckless driver who is endangering the lives of others on the road may be considered a breach of the peace that can justify a citizen’s arrest.

The Florida Supreme Court has held that police officers acting outside of their jurisdiction also have the power to effectuate citizen arrests. However, because of the potential for abuse, this power is strictly limited and police officers cannot use the power of their office to gain evidence or observe behavior that would not be accessible to an ordinary person. Importantly, a police officer must actually intend to arrest the person they are stopping, and cannot simply use the citizen arrest doctrine to make a stop for investigative purposes.

A recent case out of Volusia county, State v. Shattuck, demonstrates the limits of the citizen arrest doctrine to DUI traffic stops. That case involved an off-duty officer who came across a motorcyclist struggling to lift his fallen bike out of the middle of a busy intersection that was outside of her jurisdiction. The officer initially stopped to render aid to the driver, but then ordered him not to leave the area until he other law enforcement arrived. Eventually, a state trooper arrived on the scene and arrested the defendant for DUI.

The court, however, suppressed the results of the traffic stop, finding that the officer conducted an illegal out-of-jurisdiction detention. Arguably, blocking traffic and attempting to mount a motorcycle while apparently intoxicated could be considered a breach of the peace. However, the court held that the stop could not be considered citizen arrest, because the officer did not actually intend to arrest the motorcyclist when she conducted the stop.

While a citizen arrest can provide police, officers some authority to arrest outside of their jurisdiction, that authority is strictly limited. If you have been stopped by a police officer acting outside of their jurisdiction, whether the officer has the authority to make a citizen’s arrest could mean the difference between acquittal and conviction for your DUI case.