Tallahassee, Fl- Miami Gardens Representative Christopher Benjamin (D-107) has filed a bill that would largely prohibit Florida residents from executing citizen’s arrests.
A citizen’s arrest occurs when a non-law enforcement individual, or an off-duty law enforcement officer, effectively apprehends another individual for committing a crime and holds him hostage until law enforcement arrives.
In Florida, a private citizen can conduct a citizen’s arrest if he witnesses an individual committing a crime that constitutes a breach of the peace. Additionally, a citizen can also perform a citizen’s arrest if he has probable cause to believe that a felony has been committed and the arrested individual was the one who committed it.
Citizen’s arrests grew increasingly controversial after Ahmaud Arbery, a black man, was shot dead after being chased down by three white men attempting to conduct a citizen’s arrest.
Outrage following Arbery’s death channeled arguments for outlawing citizens’ arrests. Opponents see the practice as the horrid heritage of the antebellum south, where private citizens would hunt down runaway slaves.
However, citizen’s arrests have been around for centuries and are deeply rooted in common law tradition, dating back prior to the creation of the United States. In effect, every single state in the country recognizes some legal form for private individuals to arrest another.
Benjamin’s bill would heavily restrict, not completely disallow, citizen’s arrests. Specifically, HB27 states it would discontinue citizen’s arrests unless these are conducted “without use of deadly force”.
While ceaselessly pushing for HB 27’s passage, Benjamin is concurrently running for Miami-Dade County Judge, Group 29.