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ASK A COP — Is it illegal to make a citizen’s arrest?

Alice from Port Arthur asks: My husband and I started discussing citizen’s arrests. Neither of us could factually give details about what entails a citizen the power of arrest. Could you please clear up what a citizen’s arrest is and when a citizen can arrest? Thanks for all you do to keep us driving safe.

Officer Rickey Antoine

Answer: Everybody is fully aware of the power of arrest that is entrusted in police officers in the state of Texas, but the state of Texas also empowers ANY person to arrest WITHOUT a warrant. These arrests by ANY person only pertain to felonies that are committed in their presence or any crime against public peace. So this tells anyone who may desire to affect a citizen’s arrest that they need to abreast themselves with the felony and misdemeanor offenses in the state of Texas. A very important element to the power of arrest by citizen is “it MUST be witnessed by the person affecting the citizen’s arrest.” In my opinion, citizens should NOT be partaking in citizen’s arrests, due to the unpredictable and violent nature of most felonies and offenses against the public peace. It would probably be in the best interest to be A GOOD WITNESS than to actually get involved and attempt to apprehend a suspect. Suspects push, assault, hit, run from, cut, stab and shoot the highest form of law enforcement in our state of Texas — uniformed police officers.

It doesn’t take a rocket scientist to guess what they would do to a citizen who tries to apprehend or stop their escape after committing a felonious crime. Don’t get me wrong, your Port Arthur Police Department and all of our surrounding law enforcement agencies are thrilled that we have brave citizens who would step up to assist. But we would rather you and others be SAFE and give a detailed description of the actor(s)/suspect(s), like clothing, race, sex, vehicle description, direction of travel, and what CRIME(S) you observed! If someone should happen to affect a citizen’s arrest, they should attempt to restrain/detain and hold them without using excessive force until police officers arrive.

Martin from Winnie asks: I have a 16-year-old son, who also happens to be the family clown. He always finds a way to push the envelope with people even in the simplest of situations. A couple of weeks ago there was a police cruiser (SUV) parked and still running outside a business and to our surprise a dog started barking at us from inside the SUV. We later noticed in red lettering “K-9 Stay away” on the police unit. But my son, being who he is, started picking at the dog by growling and barking back to excite the dog. To our surprise, we did NOT notice a police officer was sitting in the driver’s seat of the police SUV. He got out of the vehicle and told us he should write my son a ticket for picking with the dog, which I thought was a joke until I realized he wasn’t laughing. He told us my son’s action towards his dog was illegal. Thankfully, he let my son go with a warning and didn’t write the ticket. Was the police officer just trying to teach my son a lesson or is there a law about picking with a policeman’s dog (really!)?

Answer: Really is right, because there REALLY is a law in the state of Texas that protects police service animals. Your son was definitely in violation for taunting the police service dog that was confined in the caged police SUV, and YES the officer could have issued him a citation for his behavior. Texas Penal Code 38.151 states a person commits and offense if he taunts, torments or strikes a police service animal. The wording on the vehicle in red is there for a reason. These are very special animals (dog or horse) that have special training much higher than a regular domesticated animal. Ignorance of the law is no excuse. Just because you didn’t know doesn’t mean it’s not ILLEGAL! Do NOT attempt to bark, stomp, yell or throw any item at a police service animal unless directed to do so by its handler…a police officer.

Issac from Port Arthur asks: As I travel along the shopping center where Walmart, Lowe’s and Academy are, I’ve noticed several stop signs are WHITE. I’ve always thought stop signs were supposed to be RED. The lettering on the white stop sign is hard to make out, so if I don’t stop for the white stop sign can I receive a ticket for that? If a crash occurs, can I be held at fault for NOT stopping for a white stop sign if it’s supposed to be RED?

Answer: Police officers cannot cite (ticket) you for running a RED stop sign on private property, much less for running a white stop sign. A white stop sign is NOT a stop sign, of course it has the correct shape but the wrong color that would be equivalent to having a white stop light. Here is a list of signage in Texas that we can all benefit from. Warning Signs are yellow and orange. Usually diamonds, pentagons and round signs indicate unexpected conditions or changes. Regulatory signs are red, black and white. Usually triangles, octagons and vertical rectangles display traffic laws. Signs that guide are green, blue and brown. Usually horizontal rectangles provide helpful or interesting information. Issac, I will contact management of the property and advise them of their need to get these signs replaced before someone walking gets injured or vehicles sustain property damage from a collision. Thanks for being part of the motoring solution in southeast Texas.

Join Officer Rickey Antoine for Ask A Cop live on KSAP 96.9 FM The Breeze from 1 to 2 p.m. every Tuesday as he discusses “Ask A Cop.” Tune in via the Internet at ksapthebreeze.org. Ask questions live at 409-982-0247. Email your questions to rantoine@portarthurpd.com, call 409-984-8541 and leave a voice mail or mail them to: Ofc. Rickey Antoine, 645 4th Street, Port Arthur, Texas, 77640. If you happen to see me in public, you can always free and comfortable to approach and “Ask A Cop!”