(The Center Square) — A new bill has been filed that would ban the practice of citizen’s arrest in Florida, but will likely find resistance in a Republican-dominated Legislature.
House Bill 27 is sponsored by Rep. Christopher Benjamin, D-Miami Gardens, and would prohibit citizen’s arrests while specifying exceptions. In the bill’s text, it states that a private person who is not in law enforcement is unable to arrest another citizen for any perceived violations of state law.
There are two exceptions in the bill, with the first applying to law enforcement officers acting outside of their respective jurisdictions. These officers can arrest someone who commits a felony in their presence or if the officer has probable cause to believe the person has committed a felony.
The bill also states that the second exception applies to a normal citizen who can detain — without the use of deadly force — any person who illegally enters their dwelling, vehicle, or vessel until law enforcement arrives.
Similar bills have previously been filed but failed to pass through committees. During the 2023 session, Rep. Benjamin filed HB 25, an identical bill that died in the Criminal Justice Subcommittee.
Benjamin did not return a request for comment on his latest bill by publication time.
According to Sammis Law Firm based in Tampa, the standard for a valid citizen’s arrest must meet four important criteria. This includes an intention to make an arrest, detaining or seizing the suspect, communicating to the suspect the intent to arrest them and ensuring the person being arrested understands.
Courts must also decide whether or not the arrest was valid if the arrest was made without a warrant. If it is found to be invalid, any evidence that has been gathered will then become inadmissible.
Current Florida law does however allow for a citizen’s arrest to occur in some instances, namely if a felony or breach of peace is taking place, for example, if a person is suspected of driving a vehicle while intoxicated on drugs or alcohol.
The practice of citizen’s arrest has come under fire in recent years after a Georgia man, Ahmaud Arbery, was killed by three men who had attempted to detain him on suspicion of committing a burglary in their neighborhood in 2020. All three men were convicted of murder in 2022.