ROCKFORD, Ill. (WTVO) — Maybe you’ve heard about citizen’s arrest from a wild story, or maybe you’ve seen one performed on TV.

Knowing if you’re able to detain a suspected criminal until police arrive could come in handy, like when two drivers detained a Rockford man after he allegedly crashed into them and tried to flee.

Were the two drivers legally allowed to subdue the hit-and-run suspect? Is a citizen’s arrest legal in Illinois?

Yes, a citizen’s arrest is legal in Illinois, but only under certain circumstances.

“Any person may arrest another when he has reasonable grounds to believe that an offense other than an ordinance violation is being committed,” according to the Illinois General Assembly.

This means you can’t detain a neighbor just because they’re mowing the lawn at night, even if it is technically against city rules.

Also, you cannot perform a citizen’s arrest if you merely suspect a crime is being or has been committed, according to Illinois attorney Sami Azhari.

“In order for a citizen to make a legitimate arrest, they must have firsthand, intimate knowledge of the crime being (or to be) committed.”

Performing a citizen’s arrest opens you up to criminal and civil liability, especially if force is used to apprehend a suspect. Citizen’s arrest laws only allow you to prevent a criminal suspect from leaving the area, nothing more.

A Canadian Government guide to making a citizen’s arrest offers a good outline to avoid liability:

  • Tell the suspect plainly that you are making a citizen’s arrest and that you are holding him or her until police arrive.
  • Call the police.
  • Ask explicitly for his or her cooperation until police arrive.
  • Avoid using force, if at all possible, and use it to the minimum possible otherwise.
  • Do not question or search the suspect or his or her possessions. Your purpose is only to temporarily detain him or her until police arrive.
  • When police arrive, state the plain facts of what happened.