California Civil Jury Instructions (CACI)

1403. False Arrest Without Warrant by Private Citizen—Essential Factual Elements

[Name of plaintiff] claims that [he/she] was wrongfully arrested by [name of defendant]. To establish this claim, [name of plaintiff] must prove all of the following:

1. That [name of defendant] intentionally caused [name of plaintiff] to be arrested without a warrant; [and]

2. That [name of plaintiff] was [actually] harmed; and

3. That [name of defendant]’s conduct was a substantial factor in causing [name of plaintiff]’s harm.

[A private person does not need to physically restrain a suspect in order to make a citizen’s arrest. A private person can make a citizen’s arrest by calling for a peace officer, reporting the offense, and pointing out the suspect.]

New September 2003; Revised December 2011

Directions for Use

Give CACI No. 1404, False Arrest Without Warrant—Affırmative Defense—Private Citizen—Probable Cause to Arrest, if applicable, immediately after this instruction.

If the plaintiff is seeking nominal damages as an alternative to actual damages, insert the following paragraph above element 2:

If you find the above, then the law assumes that [name of plaintiff] has been harmed and [he/she] is entitled to a nominal sum such as one dollar. [Name of plaintiff] is also entitled to additional damages if [he/she] proves the following:

The second sentence, along with the final two elements of this instruction, should be omitted if plaintiff is seeking nominal damages only. Read “actually” in the second element only if nominal damages are also being sought.

Sources and Authority

  • Penal Code section 834 provides: “An arrest is taking a person into custody, in a case and in the manner authorized by law. An arrest may be made by a peace officer or by a private person.”
  • “ ‘[F]alse arrest’ and ‘false imprisonment’ are not separate torts. False arrest is but one way of committing a false imprisonment, and they are distinguishable only in terminology.” (Collins v. City and County of San Francisco (1975) 50 Cal.App.3d 671, 673 [123 Cal.Rptr. 525].)
  • “It has long been the law that a cause of action for false imprisonment is stated where it is alleged that there was an arrest without process, followed by imprisonment and damages. Upon proof of those facts the burden is on the defendant to prove justification for the arrest.” (Cervantez v. J.C. Penney Co. (1979) 24 Cal.3d 579, 592 [156 Cal.Rptr. 198, 595 P.2d 975].)
  • “ ‘[T]he delegation of the physical act of arrest need not be express, but may be implied from the citizen’s act of summoning an officer, reporting the offense, and pointing out the suspect.’ ” (Johanson v. Dept. of Motor Vehicles (1995) 36 Cal.App.4th 1209, 1216 [43 Cal.Rptr.2d 42], internal citations omitted.)

Secondary Sources

5 Witkin, Summary of California Law (10th ed. 2005) Torts, §§ 438, 439

3 Levy et al., California Torts, Ch. 42, False Imprisonment and False Arrest, § 42.22 (Matthew Bender)

22 California Forms of Pleading and Practice, Ch. 257, False Imprisonment (Matthew Bender)

1 California Civil Practice: Torts §§ 13:8—13:10 (Thomson Reuters West)