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Law Enforcement: The Authority of Police as Private Citizens to Effectuate an Arrest of a Suspect Without a Warrant Outside of a Jurisdiction During an Undercover Operation

NCJ Number
Criminal Law Bulletin Volume: 26 Issue: 3 Dated: (May-June 1990) Pages: 262-266
H R Rapoport
Date Published
5 pages
This article explores the authority of a police officer to act beyond the territorial limits of his jurisdiction, either as a private citizen or during an undercover operation. Although arrests by unauthorized police officers are valid in locations where other citizen's arrests are valid, problems arise when officers act within their official capacity to effectuate an arrest.
Using the "under color of his office" doctrine, several courts have held that police officers are not required to discard the indicia of their position when making an arrest and that those arrests are valid even when the officers are in uniform and use ordinary police procedures. However, the doctrine does mean that officers acting outside their jurisdictions and not engaged in hot pursuit may not utilize the power of their office to gather evidence or search out criminal activity not otherwise observable. The courts, in upholding these arrests, have emphasized that, whenever possible, officers should serve valid arrest warrants based on sufficient probable cause or a multijurisdictional operation established in writing. The Fourth and Fifth Amendments limit the extent to which police officers, acting as private citizens, can act pursuant to a warrantless arrest. 20 notes. (Author abstract modified)