Levine & Levine Attorney Sarissa Montague recently weighed in on the possibility of claiming a citizen’s arrest as a potential defense strategy tied to the Michigan Governor Gretchen Whitmer kidnapping case.
Fourteen men, all affiliated with or members of a militia named the Wolverine Watchmen, are charged with crimes related to an alleged conspiracy to kidnap Whitmer. Six are charged federally with conspiracy to commit kidnapping, punishable by up to life in prison; eight others are charged under Michigan anti-terrorism laws with various crimes, each count punishable by up to 20 years in prison.
“In order for defendants in the Whitmer kidnapping case to claim they were making a citizen’s arrest, they’d have to prove ‘that a felony actually had been committed and that any reasonable person acting without passion or prejudice would have fairly suspected’ the same,” Montague told MLive for a story published Oct. 24, 2020.
According to MLive, a 2001 U.S. Appeals Court decision states English common law private citizens are allowed to make warrantless arrests “for all sorts of relatively minor” and nonviolent crimes, including “night-walking, unlawful game-playing, profane cursing, and negligent carriage-driving.”
Michigan law allows for a warrantless citizen’s arrest in four situations: If a felony is committed in the citizen’s presence; if the suspect “has committed” a felony outside the citizen’s presence; if the citizen is “summoned” to assist a law enforcement officer; and of the citizen is a retailer or security guard who suspects certain retail fraud violations.
The men charged in the case allegedly claim Whitmer committed treason in connection to many of the executive orders she issued to help mitigate the spread of COVID-19. Treason is a federal and state crime. In Michigan, treason carries an automatic life sentence.
Read the full MLive story, here.