Nevada has very specific laws regarding the legality of an arrest, whether it be by a police officer, an FBI or Secret Service agent, or an arrest by an officer of the Bureau of Indian Affairs. In fact, there are even certain arresting hours—hours during which certain arrests may be made. For example, without certain mitigating circumstances (e.g., a warrant, domestic violence batteries, or offense committed in front of an officer), a misdemeanor arrest cannot be made between 7:00 p.m. and 7:00 a.m.
These time limitations don’t apply to citizen’s arrests, however.
In Nevada, it is legal for a private citizen arrest another
- For a public offense committed or attempted in the person’s presence.
- When the person arrested has committed a felony, although not in the person’s presence.
- When a felony has been in fact committed, and the private person has reasonable cause for believing the person arrested to have committed it.
That means unless it is a felony, you can’t arrest someone else unless you actually see them committing (or attempting to commit) the crime.
The law also allows the person making an arrest to summon assistance form as many people the arresting person deems necessary. This includes when an officer is making an arrest and asks for help from the public (“Stop that thief!”).
There are limitations to the amount of force that can be used to apprehend and arrest someone. According to the Nevada Supreme Court, “a private person, when arresting another person pursuant to NRS 171.126, may use no more force than is necessary and reasonable to secure the arrest.” State v. Weddell, 118 Nev. 206, 209, 43 P.3d 987, 988 (2002).
Using “deadly force” in an arrest is always unreasonable unless it becomes necessary to defend oneself or someone else “against a threat of serious bodily injury.”
If you have a vigilante complex or find yourself out late at night looking for people to save, know that you can legally make an arrest, and the time limits of making citizen’s arrests do not apply to you unless you wear a badge.
Zachariah B. Parry is an attorney and founding partner at the law firm Parry & Pfau and is an adjunct professor who teaches torts, contracts, and Nevada practice and procedure for UNLV’s paralegal program. He can be reached at 702-912-4451 or firstname.lastname@example.org.