CITIZEN’S ARREST | New York Personal Injury Attorney


While virtually everyone has heard the term “citizen’s arrest” used at some point in time, rarely do people realize that the term has specific legal meaning and potentially serious legal implications.

The definition is simple enough: a “citizen’s arrest” is an arrest by any civilian (not necessarily a “citizen” in some states) who does not have official government authority to make an arrest.  In fact “citizen arrests” are legal in every state, though state laws with respect to the situations in which such arrests are permissible vary.

As a general rule, every state permits a civilian to make an arrest if a “felony” (a very serious crime) is being perpetrated in the presence of that civilian.   Where differences among the states occur is in matters involving “misdemeanors” (less serious crimes),  and where a felony is not witnessed by the civilian.

The difficulty is NOT when the civilian arrests a person that committed a crime in his presence.   Both the fact that the crime occurred as well as the identity of the person committing the crime is, in that instance, clear.   More difficult is the situation where the crime was committed outside the presence of the civilian intending to make the arrest.   In New York, such arrests should be limited to felonies.  Furthermore, if the civilian makes a mistake and, it turns out, no felony was committed, the civilian may well be subject to a lawsuit for false arrest.  If, on the other hand, the crime actually occurred, but the civilian makes a reasonable and good faith mistake as to the identity of the person the civilian arrests, then in that instance the civilian may be able to present his good faith effort as a valid defense to a lawsuit for false arrest. We should also mention, however, the possibility that the person arrested may file criminal charges of assault against the well intentioned civilian!

It would seem self evident that the best approach is always to contact the proper authorities, an act that has become infinitely easier with the advent of cell phones.  If, as an absolute last resort you must resort to a civilian arrest, do so recognizing fully the legal limitations within which you are compelled to act.

Can I Sue The City? Examples Of Special Duty Relationships


Recall our general rule: The City has no duty to act in any of its governmental functions, unless a “special duty relationship” was created with respect to the injured person (see Feb. 12, 2010 post). For the record, as an aside, this general rule does NOT apply in most matters relating to highways–for whatever reason.

Obviously, one of the premier governmental functions of a city are its police activities. Unsurprisingly, an area garnering a great percentage of inquiries to Personal Injury Attorneys are from individuals injured by the actions, or inaction, of the police. Aside from bankrupting the City if , for example, every single crime victim was entitled to sue the City, the courts will often demand the Plaintiff demonstrate a “Special Duty Relationship” existed between the Plaintiff and the Police (see Feb.12,2010 blog post for elements of “Special Duty Relationship“).

Some examples of decisions by courts might prove interesting, if not actually instructive:

—Police warned an individual they saw getting out of a fully parked vehicle not to drive his vehicle because he was obviously intoxicated. The police then went on their way. Fifteen minutes later the same individual was involved in an accident causing an injury. The injured party brought suit against the municipality because the police failed to detain the intoxicated person. RESULT: The city was NOT liable. There is no liability for failure to provide police protection here since there was no “Special Duty Relationship” established with the party eventually injured. (Jessop v. Niagara Falls)

—The City of New York was sued when, as a result of an automobile accident, police on the scene directed one of the involved vehicles to back up. That vehicle pinned a bystander against another vehicle, eventually resulting in an amputation of that bystander’s leg. RESULT: The law suit by the bystander against the City was successful. The court said that once the officer undertook to take action, that action had to be done properly and with care! (Kovit v. Hallums)
—Police removed a vehicle from an accident on a highway and placed flares at the scene. A motorcycle driver hit the removed vehicle and sued the City of New York for what he claimed was improper securing of the original accident scene. RESULT: The City was not liable. Placing of flares is a governmental function. Without a “Special Duty Relationship”, which was not established, the City cannot be held responsible. (Respass v. City of New York).
—EMS workers, working for the NYC Health and Hospitals Corporation, responded to an emergency. The person treated by the EMS personnel died. The estate of that deceased sued. RESULT : The lawsuit was permitted. Once treatment was started, it had to be performed properly and competently. (see Kovit case above) (Fonville v. NYCH&H Corp.)

CONCLUSION: In very many instances, even a highly experienced Personal Injury Attorney will have to examine a case in detail, before making a fully informed and proper decision, as to whether a particular matter is properly subject to a suit against a municipality.
Experience, in “Special Duty” cases, is an invaluable commodity when hoping to maximize the chances of successfully pursuing a matter against a municipal defendant.


Disgraced Chicago Police officer stands Trial

Official proceedings to remove Anthony Abbate from the Chicago Police Department began this week.

On Monday, Novermber 16, city attorneys aired lengthy recordings to highlight how the events unfolded at Jesse’s Short Stop Inn on the afternoon and evening of Feb. 19, 2007. During two visits to the Northwest Side bar, Abbate consumed large quantities of alcohol and continuously harassed and physically abused the bartender, Karolina Obrycka, and patrons according to the attorneys and the charges filed against him by Police Superintendent Jody Weis. Tuesdays proceedings started with the airing of a 30 minutes video showing the officer showboating and harassing patrons of a Northwest Side bar before he turns on the bartender, beating and kicking her Abbate was already convicted in criminal court for the felony aggravated battery of Obrycka and now faces dismissal from the department before the Chicago Police Board.

He continuiously invoked his Fifth Amendment right against self-incrimination at least 75 times during questioning by city attorney Anna L. D’Ascenzo,

who repeatedly asked Abbate to identify himself on the recording. Obrycka took the stand and watched the video that shows her being punched, beaten, pushed and yanked by the hair by the 13-year officer. “I heard him say, ‘Nobody will tell me what to do,’ ” Obrycka said. “I believe the only thing I said…I said, ‘Stop.’ “Michael Malatesta, Abbate’s attorney, called the hearing a formality, considering that Abbate cannot serve as a police officer with a felony conviction. “There is no getting around it,” he said.

As one of a handful of law firms in New York City representing victims of police misconduct, The Orlow Firm has extensive experience helping victims of:

* Police Brutality and Prison Guard Abuse

* False Arrest

* All other types of police misconduct.

Many complaints of police misconduct are ignored.

They are frequently brushed off as if the person must be lying or somehow deserves his or her fate by having been involved with the police in the first place. If you are a victim of police misconduct, it’s important to contact a lawyer immediately. You may only have ninety days to file an action against the police department.