Washington Law Review


Lael Harrison


When a citizen witnesses the commission of a misdemeanor, Alaska law allows that citizen to arrest the offender on the spot. A citizen making such an arrest may request assistance from a police officer rather than physically subduing the offender alone. However, Alaska law does not clearly define how much assistance police may give before the citizen's arrest becomes a warrantless police arrest. That distinction is particularly important in misdemeanor arrests because Alaska follows the common law rule that citizens and officers may make warrantless misdemeanor arrests only for those misdemeanors committed in their presence. Officers may not make warrantless misdemeanor arrests merely upon citizen crime reports. Therefore, when a citizen witnesses a misdemeanor and an officer does not, only the citizen may legally arrest the offender on the spot. Nonetheless, the Alaska Court of Appeals in Moxie v. State adopted the "delegated citizen's arrest" doctrine, holding that a citizen making an arrest may "delegate" the task of taking an offender into custody to a police officer who did not witness the misdemeanor. The court expressed agreement with California's delegated citizen's arrest doctrine and endorsed the California courts' reasoning. However, the Moxie decision itself did not expressly define the scope of such delegation, leaving it unclear when a delegated citizen's arrest becomes an illegal warrantless police arrest. This Comment analyzes Moxie and relevant California law, and argues that Alaska should apply California's limits to delegated citizen's arrests. Applying such limits is consistent with the policy behind delegated citizen's arrests and ensures the integrity of Alaska's warrant requirement in such situations.

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