In a recent tragic story covered by azfamily.com in Phoenix, a Tempe man was killed after trying to make a citizen’s arrest on a car full of people who were involved in a simple hit and run accident. Joey DeLegge saw the accident, and when the occupants of one of the cars fled, he made them sit on a curb and held them at gunpoint. 17-year-old Antonio Misquez witnessed this and shot and killed DeLegge. Misquez has been indicted in Maricopa County Superior Court on one count of second-degree murder.
Does Arizona Law Allow a Citizen’s Arrest
While Arizona law does allow someone to make a citizen’s arrest, it limits the ability to do so to circumstances in which one of the following crimes is being committed:
- Burglary (residential only);
- Sexual conduct with a minor;
- Sexual assault;
- Child molestation;
- Armed robbery; or
- Aggravated assault
In order to properly and legally assert the defense that you were effectuating a citizen’s arrest, you will need to prove to a jury not only that you (yourself) violated the law to prevent one of these crimes, but that you were reasonable in doing so.
Making a Citizen’s Arrest Could Land You in Jail
Often times, prosecutors will file criminal charges against someone who makes a citizen’s arrest so that a jury can decide if doing so was reasonable. This means that even if you make a citizen’s arrest, you may have to hire a criminal defense attorney to defend your actions. Because more times than not a citizen’s arrest is made using a firearm or gun, charges of aggravated assault with a deadly weapon are filed against the person making the citizen’s arrest.
While DeLegge was tragically killed by Misquez, the unfortunate reality of the situation is that DeLegge was in the wrong for trying to make a citizen’s arrest for a misdemeanor hit and run charge. But for Misquez committing murder, DeLegge would likely have been charged with aggravated assault with a deadly weapon.
Misquez, on the other hand, will likely argue self-defense and defense of others at trial because he saw DeLegge pointing a gun at several people as he forced them to sit on a curb. In other words, Misquez may be acquitted of murder if the jury agrees that it was reasonable for him to believe that DeLegge was committing aggravated assault and kidnapping.
A Final Thought
Police officers get a lot of training for a reason. DeLegge’s death, while tragic, could have been avoided. He should have called police, given a description of the car and its license plate to dispatchers, and then called it a day.
While people often have good intentions to make a citizen’s arrest, the reality is that under Arizona law, you may put yourself in a position where you are charged with a crime and need to hire a criminal defense attorney. I have handled numerous cases of aggravated assault with a deadly weapon where a justification defense is being asserted. If you are being charged with a serious felony offense, though you acted in self-defense or to defend someone else, we can help. Confidential consultations can be scheduled by calling (602) 663-9100. Above all else, while people often act quickly to make a citizen’s arrest, leave it to the pros. Being a good samaritan doesn’t need to cost you your freedom, and it certainly doesn’t need to cost you your life.