Arrest by a Citizen

From Criminal Law Notebook
This page was last substantively updated or reviewed January 2015. (Rev. # 85799)

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]


Note up: 494(1), (2), (3), and (4)

"Finds committing" requires that the arresting person discover the suspect "in the very act of committing an offence."[1]

"indictable offences"

Any reference to "indictable offences" in s. 494 include hybrid offences.[2]


The meaning of "forthwith" in the Criminal Code means "as soon as is reasonably practiable under all the circumstances."[3]


An arrest by a private citizen will still enable the accused's Charter rights as the person is exercising a government function.[4]

Contra: Where the actions of a private citizens are not at the direction of the state, the Charter does not apply to the conduct of persons operating under s. 494.[5]

  1. R v Abel & Corbett, 2008 BCCA 54 (CanLII), 229 CCC (3d) 465, per Frankel JA, at para 31
  2. R v Huff, 1979 ABCA 234 (CanLII), 50 CCC (2d) 324, per Laycraft JA
  3. R v Cunningham (1979), 49 CCC (2d) 390(*no CanLII links)
    see Forthwith Under Section 254
  4. R v Lerke, 1986 ABCA 15 (CanLII), CR (3d) 324, 24 CCC (3d) 129, per Laycraft CJ
    R v McCowan, 2011 ABPC 79 (CanLII), 509 AR 202, per Fradsham J
  5. R v Skeir, 2005 NSCA 86 (CanLII), 196 CCC (3d) 353, per Fichaud JA
    R v Buhay, 2003 SCC 30 (CanLII), [2003] 1 SCR 631, per Arbour J