CA8: Officer taking custody after citizen’s arrest did not violate clearly established law

An officer received a report of a disorderly misdemeanor in progress and arrived to see part of it. While the facts were conflicting, there was still probable cause for the arrest. The law of citizen’s arrest is not so obvious that the officer violated it by taking custody of the plaintiff after a citizen’s arrest. Gilmore v. City of Minneapolis, 2016 U.S. App. LEXIS 16708 (8th Cir. Sept. 13, 2016):

A citizen’s arrest may be valid, even if it is an officer who takes custody of the suspect. In State v. Duren, officers asked a private citizen who had witnessed an alleged misdemeanor to sign a citizen’s arrest form, because the officers had not witnessed the commission of the offense themselves. 266 Minn. 335, 123 N.W.2d 624, 631 (Minn. 1963). The court noted “[i]t is clear from the record that after defendant’s arrest by [the citizen] she in effect delivered him to the police officers present who already had him in custody,” and concluded that the fact that “such arrest was made by [the citizen] at the request of the police officers who had arrived after the accident would not affect its validity if § 629.37 were followed.” Id.; see also United States v. Rambo, 789 F.2d 1289, 1293 n.5 (8th Cir. 1986) (noting that under Minnesota law “[p]olice officers are authorized to take custody of an individual arrested by a private person, which means in practice that police officers often are the ones who actually effect the arrest, acting on behalf of the citizen-complainant” (citations omitted)). The district court concluded that Glazer had witnessed all of Gilmore’s relevant behavior, and could effect a citizen’s arrest by asking the officers to detain Gilmore after the fact. See Duren, 123 N.W.2d at 631. Gilmore also argues that Glazer did not comply with the statutory requirement of “inform[ing] the person to be arrested of the reasons therefor,” but Glazer did not need to complete that requirement personally. Under Minnesota law, the officer could do that on his behalf. See id. (“[The police officers] already had [the defendant] in custody and … acting on [the private citizen's] behalf, advised [the defendant] of the reasons upon which [the private citizen] had based his arrest, indicative of compliance with the statutory requirements outlined.”).

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While we conclude that there remain disputed issues of fact regarding whether the officers had reason to know Rule 6.01 made their actions unlawful, another statute, Minnesota Statutes section 629.36, also applies to the facts of this case. In contrast to the officers’ obligations under Rule 6.01, section 629.36 provides: “When a bystander arrests a person for breach of the peace, the bystander may deliver that person to a peace officer. The peace officer shall take the arrested person to a judge for criminal processing.” While this statute leaves us with more questions than it resolves, and precedent from the Minnesota courts analyzing the statute is lacking, it does seem in direct conflict with Rule 6.01, creating confusion as to the officers’ statutory obligations under the circumstances. See Gleason v. Metro. Council Transit Operations, 563 N.W.2d 309, 318 (Minn. Ct. App. 1997) (noting official immunity applies when the official demonstrates “that the right allegedly violated was not clearly established, that is, that there was no basis for knowing the conduct would violate the plaintiff’s rights”). Rule 6.01 requires release on citation unless certain circumstances exist; section 629.36 seems to require a person be taken into immediate custody, at least for a brief period, by the peace officer. Whether a “bystander” is a citizen for purposes of a citizen’s arrest and what is meant by “criminal processing” are not clear from the statute, but that very lack of clarity is what prevents us from concluding that the officers knew or had reason to know that their conduct in continuing to detain Gilmore was prohibited. We have no conclusive reason to believe that Rule 6.01 does not apply to citizen’s arrests for misdemeanors, and Gilmore’s continued detention may not have been “‘objectively’ legally reasonable,” see Gleason, 563 N.W.2d at 318, but we cannot conclude that Gilmore’s arrest was “clearly established” as unlawful given the existence of section 629.36.

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