In New Article, Professor Robbins Recommends Limiting Scope of Citizen’s Arrest


Professor Ira Robbins published “Vilifying the Vigilante: A Narrowed Scope of Citizen’s Arrest,” as the lead article in the Spring 2016 Cornell Journal of Law and Public Policy. In the article, Robbins argues that, for the average citizen, whether alone or in a neighborhood watch group such as the Guardian Angels, the doctrine of citizen’s arrest presents significant potential for abuse because untrained citizens may make arrests virtually anywhere in public. This vast power requires that the arrestor have knowledge of local felony and misdemeanor laws as well as jurisprudential holdings regarding the probable cause required to make an arrest, the length of detention permitted, and the amount of force they are permitted to use in doing so. To expect the ordinary citizen to master these hurdles is unreasonable and dangerous. Therefore, Robbins recommends its abolition in most instances. He writes, “It is a doctrine whose time should have passed many decades—or centuries—ago.”

Robbins is co-director of the law school’s Criminal Justice Practice and Policy Institute and an expert in criminal law, criminal procedure, and correctional law.