What are my rights to hold a trespassers?

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What are my rights to hold a trespassers?

My parents are property managers of a private gated neighborhood-community. We keep having people drive over our property on 4-wheelers from a hunting club to federal private property. There are plenty of private property signs visible on the trail they are using along with purple painted trees meaning federal property. If we catch someone in the act of crossing over, are we allowed to detain them until an officer arrives. We’ve gotten both yes no answers to this question as ‘

Asked on June 19, 2017 under Criminal Law, North Carolina

Answers:

SJZ, Member, New York Bar / FreeAdvice Contributing Attorney

Answered 3 years ago | Contributor

No, you may not hold them. Certainly, you can photograph them and their license plate and report them to the police, and also ask them to voluntarily stay for the police (saying you're called them, for example, and they are on the way), but if they choose to leave and you use force to retain them, or damage their vehicle to restain them, or even just block them, in your will  be committing one or more of assault, vandalism/disorderly conduct, even possibly false imprisonment. While there is a limited "citizen's arrest" power, it IS highly limited: for example, in your state, it appears to only apply to crimes involving destruction or theft of property, violence or injury, "breach of the peace" (loud, rowdy, disruptive conduct in public), and felonies (major crimes). Trespass is none of the above; it is therefore likely that you would not have the privilege to detain them, but could be prosecuted for any criminal acts you commit in the process. (Even if technically what they were doing would justify detention, courts and prosecutors don't like citizen's arrest, and courts balance what was being done to you vs. what you did in response in making their judgments, so even if you *might* in theory be safe doing this, if you use force to restrain someone only guilty of trespassing, you would still likely face liability.)


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