T Nation

Crime Scenarios & What to Do



This article makes me want to find out what is okay and what it not okay to do when you're faced with someone doing a criminal act

There have been times on the subway where I see people get their phones snatched and a buddy of mine once got punched in the face for no apparent reason (wasn't there to witness it). I have never been in situations where I could do anything about it, but if I were I am curious as to what I am allowed to do without facing any lawsuits.

If a guy steals a phone, am I allowed to tackle him and hold him until the police come? What if I break his arm when trying to tackle him?

If I see a cop struggling to arrest someone, is it okay for me to help him out?

Or with the San Francisco video recently posted, obviously that guy was harassing people, but would it be okay for me to punch him?

What if a guy grabs my girls ass.. Am I really expected to do nothing about it?

I know these are a lot of hypothetical situations, but it seems that people are always in fear of doing the right thing because of the possibility of being sued.


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really, Even if i'm muslim :wink:

I never knew that ass grabbing was considered assault. That's a relief to hear. I don't think i'd be able to bite my tongue if it ever happened.


Disclaimer: I am not a lawyer. At all. This is just my understanding.

Depends on where you live. Where I live, a civilian's powers of arrest are basically limited to situations where you directly witness someone committing an indictable offence (i.e. assault, robbery etc), a dual offence (i.e. shoplifting), a property crime (B & E, vandalism etc) or situations where you are assisting someone who you reasonably believe has lawful authority to arrest (i.e. police officer, store security etc.) or the person is escaping from the law. Like I said, this is how it is where I live and it may or may not be the same for you.

As for your examples,

Cell phone guy is arrestable.

If practical ask the cop before intervening, but you are justified.

As for naked guy, where I live public indecency/lude acts etc is not indictable and therefor not within a civilian's powers of arrest unless it escalates to sexual assault. In other words no, you cannot punch out or even detain the guy jerking off in the bushes at your kid's school or the naked guy in the park unless he touches someone. All you can do is call the cops and keep eyes on him However, even if he were arrestable, punching him would potentially get you into trouble if that amount of force was not necessary in order for you to safely affect the arrest. What I mean is if grabbing his arm would get the job done, punching is not legal. You need to be able to articulate to police (through you attorney) and potentially later to a jury why your/public safety demanded that level of force in order to affect a lawful arrest. In other words, the bad guy's behaviour needs to be violent enough to warrant whatever violence you inflict upon him.

Grab-ass guy may be arrestable for sexual assault but again, you would need to detain him with as little force as is necessary to get the job done and call the police and wait. Simply punching him in the face would be assault. That's really the key. Even if you are within your rights to arrest somebody, "arresting" is all you are within your rights to do. "Putting criminals in their place" is where people get themselves into trouble.

Your knowledge of the legislation where YOU live and your ability to articulate your actions after the fact and take intelligent steps to protect yourself legally after the fact (i.e. submitting your statement to police at a later time through an attorney etc.) will often have as big an impact on the outcome as your actual actions.

We should not be afraid to take action, but understand that even if you do the "right" thing and sometimes even the lawful thing you take a risk, both physically and legally. If you understand and are willing to accept that risk and do the right thing anyway, good on you, IMO.

Edit - I believe that you also need to tell someone that you are arresting them and why and provide them with a reasonable opportunity to surrender before you apply force, unless some immediate threat prevents this. In other words you need to tell cellphone guy to stop before you tackle him and you need to tell grab-ass guy that he's being arrested for sexual assault before you lay hands on him. You need to give some kind of lawful commands and allow the person the chance to comply. If you fail to do this you are not affecting a lawful arrest. With the cop in the fight or some other immediate threat of physical harm coming to somebody, you can take more direct action if needed.


Then don't give out legal advice.


Yeah, cause all the advice/opinions on these are only given by professionals speaking about their chosen professions. It's a discussion dude.

Edit - The only actual "advice" I gave the OP was to know the law where he lives and to understand the risks involved before he makes any decisions.


It depends on what country you live in, or if you live in the .U.S., what state. Each will have a slightly different set of laws. As a LEO , with both national and international experience, I can tell you , very simply, you can and will be sued, for anything in the U.S., but, having stated that, a lethal response to a violent confortation in San Francisco will be investigated on a different level, from the same situation in a rural Texas county. There are no set standards to self-defense. You do have some protection in most states under the "Good Samaritan Law" from a CRIMINAL allegation, but, this will not protect you in a CIVIL suit.

Best advise I can give you, if you live in the U.S. is to study your states statutes on self defense and their version of the samaritan law. I have been through 4 lawsuits, unless its your family or loved ones in danger, evaluate the situation very carefully before taking action.

Now my personal thoughts: Decide now, before you step out in public, what your personal parameters are for action. Mine are defense of myself, my woman, defense of a child or an elderly person. Each situation presents a different view of what I stand for, and IF the situation warrants , I will use lethal force. These are the general guideleines i go by, so, when the shit hits the fan, there is no mental brain lock on action.


Well, uh, there ARE quite a few lawyers on this site who could answer the OPs questions for him.


Says the guy that told someone that's depressed to take LSD.


Like idaho said, develop your own terms of action. They should be limited to your loved ones and the truly helpless people out there. You don't want to expose yourself to unnecessary risk for people you don't know. Sometimes shitty things happen and you can't do anything about it.

In my hometown's bar district, it's common for a group of thugs to have one guy (usually a smaller one) in the group grab the ass of a woman walking with a man. The others stand back, and wait for the man to confront the small guy. This usually results in a swarm and the beating of the guy who thought it was just some small punk trying to get a piece of his woman's ass.

Just be aware of your surroundings and the situation if you choose to perform an arrest. Don't be surprised if he doesn't want to stick around for the cops, and decides to turn on you. The cops might be a while depending on where you are. It really sucks to restrain someone with as little force that is reasonably necessary when you are fighting for what you think is right, and he is fighting for his freedom.


And this is why I love this site...


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To the OP:

I will always live by, "It's better to be judged by 12 than carried by 6." I won't stand by and allow my family to be hurt because I might go to jail. Defense of family > defense of self > non-defense because of legal issues.


I had this same conversation with a guy this weekend. This is being an adult versus a teenage idiot. I wouldn't get in a fight over just an ass grab. Trying to rip her off her clothes and rape her get ready for a beat down. If he gets close enough and I see the ass grab coming I might grab his wrist and break it quickly, but otherwise it is not worth it. Grabbing my wife's tits would also warrant a beat down.

I find an ass grab as confirmation my wife is hot. None of us on here would date or marry an ugly woman, so this comes with the territory. I agree it is an assault, but is it really worth it?


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That's right, but this is when dealing with life threatening situations. Just a random guy beating another in the street, what would you do?


Yell at the aggressor that the police are on their way, when in fact, they are.


That could easily turn life threatening.

I'll amend my statement. If you can avoid, diffuse, or straight leave a situation, then do it, otherwise be judged not carried.


If I witness a criminal act, I'm hoping the guy doing it weighs less than 315lbs(pr) so I can dead-lift his ass then break his back over my knee.


why deadlift when you can snatch his a@@.