Arrest by a Citizen

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General Principles

See also: Warrantless Arrests

Arrest without warrant by any person
494. (1) Any one may arrest without warrant

(a) a person whom he finds committing an indictable offence; or
(b) a person who, on reasonable grounds, he believes
(i) has committed a criminal offence, and
(ii) is escaping from and freshly pursued by persons who have lawful authority to arrest that person.

Arrest by owner, etc., of property
(2) The owner or a person in lawful possession of property, or a person authorized by the owner or by a person in lawful possession of property, may arrest a person without a warrant if they find them committing a criminal offence on or in relation to that property and

(a) they make the arrest at that time; or
(b) they make the arrest within a reasonable time after the offence is committed and they believe on reasonable grounds that it is not feasible in the circumstances for a peace officer to make the arrest.

Delivery to peace officer
(3) Any one other than a peace officer who arrests a person without warrant shall forthwith deliver the person to a peace officer.
For greater certainty
(4) For greater certainty, a person who is authorized to make an arrest under this section is a person who is authorized by law to do so for the purposes of section 25 [Protection of persons acting under authority].
R.S., 1985, c. C-46, s. 494; 2012, c. 9, s. 3.
[annotation(s) added]


An arrest by a private citizen will still enable the accused's Charter rights as the person is exercising a government function.[1]

"Finds committing" requires that the arresting person discover the suspect "in the very act of committing an offence".[2]

  1. R v Lerke (1986), 49 C.R. (3d) 324, 24 CCC (3d) 129, 1986 ABCA 15 (CanLII), (ABCA), per Laycraft CJ
    R v McCowan, 2011 ABPC 79 (CanLII), per Fradsham J
  2. R v Abel & Corbett, 2008 BCCA 54 (CanLII), per Frankel JA, at para 31