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In what can only be described as a real life episode of Scooby-Doo, only without the talking dog and extended mystery plot, an art thief was caught by three college students almost immediately after the end of this year's Super Bowl. Based on reports, it sounds like the art thief would have gotten away with it, if it weren't for those meddling kids. Obligatory Muttley laugh.
The three students, just barely old enough to buy a drink, were out in Boston just after the Patriot's Super Bowl win, when they spotted the thief as he tried to escape with a Picasso and Rembrandt from the Galerie d'Orsay in Boston. They saw the thief run out of a smashed gallery window holding several pieces of art. When they shouted out after the thief, he tossed the artwork, valued at approximately $50,000 and ran. The three students then chased him down, and restrained the thief until police arrived to make the arrest.
Under certain circumstances, private citizens are authorized to make, what is called, a citizen's arrest. However, private citizens are cautioned against doing so because failure to abide by the law when making a citizen's arrest can lead to severe civil and criminal consequences. If you wrongly arrest another citizen, not only can you be arrested for assault and battery, but you can be sued civilly for those same torts, as well as false imprisonment.
The laws governing citizen arrests will vary from state to state but every state requires that the citizen not use excessive force, meaning the amount of force used must be proportional. Additionally, in most states, there is a distinction in the level of authority citizens have depending on the severity of the crime.
For instance, for a felony, a citizen does not actually have to witness the crime to make the arrest, whereas for misdemeanors, they do need to actually witness the crime. Also, most jurisdictions require that before a citizen's arrest can be made, the arrester must announce their intent and basis to make the citizen's arrest.