Can You Arrest Someone for DUI?

Posted by Lawrence Taylor on November 3rd, 2015

Have you ever seen someone driving under the influence and wished you could arrest him or her for drunk driving?  I mean, only cops can arrest a drunk driver, right?

Not necessarily.

A Tennessee court of appeals has recently upheld the DUI conviction of a man arrested by a police officer outside of his jurisdiction — on the grounds that the cop was acting as a private citizen.

Tennessee Court Highlights Ability of Private Citizen to Conduct Traffic Stops

To keep a convicted drunk driver from going free, the Tennessee Court of Criminal Appeals on Friday decided to emphasize the private citizen’s right to pull over other motorists, even for minor traffic infractions. 

"As a private citizen, Officer Croce was authorized to stop and arrest defendant for these traffic violations." Judge Timothy L. Easter wrote for the unanimous panel. "Officer Croce’s subjective belief that he was acting as a police officer in Sevierville rather than as a private citizen is immaterial."…

Was the court just stretching it to uphold the conviction?  Or can anyone now arrest anyone else for DUI in Tennessee…or in your state?  And would the police book a person arrested for DUI by a private citizen?  Would the prosecutor file charges?  Would a jury convict?  

Would this appellate court have upheld the conviction if the arresting person had been a private citizen rather than an out-of-his-jurisdiction cop?

(Thanks to Joe)

  • Private citizens pulling over suspected drunk drivers will be a prescription for road rage. [and police impersonators, which is already a problem] Lowering the drinking age to 18 is a good idea and will reduce binge drinking at frat parties. You know, the forbidden fruit thing. People treated as adults are more likely to behave as adults. Sensible adults, that is.

  • jw Chadwick

    I can tell you this about someone driving drunk and acting really stupid behind the wheel..
    Around mid 98 I was driving west on the 110 in southern cal. I had this Vietnamese jerk intentionally swerving trying to hit me, in day light, highway speeds. Road rage did cross my mind but this jerk was a real ahole.. flipping me off, trying to swerve into me and purposely trying to cause an accident by slamming on his brakes AND anyone could see this jerk was nodding his head back and forth as he was close to passing out.
    I got his plate number and reported it to the CHP, thinking nothing was going to happen to him.
    About an hrs after I’d returned back to my barracks I got a call from the chp, wanting me to ID this a hole which I can’t say enough of his character. It took me at least 45 minutes to drive back to that location which I was fine with. The chip had traced his plate back to his liquor store he owned with his wife in Camarillo and held him there and this guy was so drunk I could smell the odor 20 feet from the back of the patrol car he was in.
    Was I wrong?? Was I mad? Did road rage factor into this incident?? Yes, probably.. This jerk intentionally tried to slam on his brakes to cause an accident and intentionally tried to swerve into me several times as I tried to get around him. He deserved whatever Santa Barbara county did to him.. hopefully prison bc the arresting officers said this wasn’t his first rodeo.
    I mentioned this to my grandfather, years later and his reply to me was that I was wrong. Never understood why he thought that. This Vietnamese sob intentionally tried to cause physical harm with a 5000lb weapon. He wasn’t a young man, probably late 50s, maybe early 60s.
    Even years prior to this, somehow I was involved in another situation where a guy was obviously on something other than alcohol,very impaired driving 25mph on interstate 60 at 1a.m.. Three cars, myself included boxed this guy in and slowed down to get him off the highway.. He was so out of it the man didn’t even realize what was happening.
    I was young, very impulsive but there wasn’t any road rage, just a pure sense that this driver was really out of it.
    We did get his to a stop, and for whatever reason the two other gentleman were leary of reaching into his car and taking the guys keys away, I just did it very quickly. I remember saying to guy that the ride was over and giving the keys to an older gentleman who helped box the impaired driver with his vehicle as the three of us did.
    It was foolish, something could’ve really went south like road rage, or someone getting shot or stabbed or run over, anything other than what actually happened.
    Now I will say, I’ve had two dui incidents in my life, ten years apart. Has since caused to me totally abstain from drinking period. I can’t recall anyone attempting to stop me from driving though I wish someone other than law enforcement would’ve. I’d always known that what I was doing was going to eventually lead to trouble, However I drank so heavily I couldn’t stop myself. Spent 9 days in a detox facility then followed by another 36 days in a residential VA facility and after that many months of aftercare.
    It worked, wouldn’t think of picking up a bottle today and driving. Washington state has very stiff due laws that are progressively worse as time and infractions continue. However I can’t say it’s deterring Duis bc the laws are just counter productive even for first time offenders who caused no bodily harm or physical damage.
    Have to say it’s a money making industry from the private care counselors, court facilitators, interlock providers, treatment centers, lawyers, etc etc.
    Everyone wants and get their cut, and that’s the truth. Meanwhile abstinence is not always the end goal for some of these agencies as much as how much money they will make.

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  • Interesting story, But I am curious how you traveled West on the 110, the Harbor Freeway runs North & South maybe a typo for 101? but yes, A Private Person can make an arrest for a violation of the Penal or Vehicle code, and in the case of a misdemeanor or Felony a law enforcement officer must accept your prisoner, HOWEVER, in such case you are also personally liable for any litigation in the case, ie: false arrest or excessive force. On A couple of occasions in OC I followed suspected DUI’s while on the cell with CHP dispatch, talking directly with air units that directed local LE units, in both cases the parties pled guilty.

  • jw Chadwick

    Maybe it was 101, was almost 20 years ago near Pt mugo naval air station, going west.
    Not even worried or concerned about legal crap, only a California native would bring that garbage up even after theyre caught in the wrong. Typical California mentality and people wonder why that state is so screwed up?? Bc they’ve given so much consideration to criminal rights and defense now it’s such a cesspool of litigious that actual hard working American citizens don’t want to live there and have been relocating since around 1988.