Arrests Outside Officers’ Jurisdiction
Facts: Defendant was arrested for possessing contraband found during a traffic stop. Notably, the stop was initiated by a City of Columbia police officer outside of the Columbia city limit. Defendant filed a motion to suppress, contending, among other things, that the City of Columbia police officer lacked jurisdiction to act outside the City of Columbia. The Trial Court denied the motion and found Defendant guilty after a bench trial.
Appellate Decision: The intermediate court affirmed the denial of the suppression and the conviction. The court noted: “TCA 40-7-109 provides authority for a private person to make an arrest. This court has determined that officers have the authority to arrest defendants under the private arrest statute, noting that a police officer does not give up the right to act as a private citizen when he is off duty or out of his jurisdiction. Although this court had repeatedly cautioned that when an officer acts under the private arrest statute, they do so at their own peril.”
Review Granted: October 15, 2021. The Supreme Court noted it is “the Court is particularly interested in the parties addressing the permissible scope of activity for a law enforcement officer acting as private citizen under Tenn. Code Ann. § 40-7-109.”
Prediction: Ben thinks the Supreme Court will affirm the denial of the suppression motion, and reaffirm the notion that an officer may make arrests outside of his jurisdiction as a “private person” but likely loses certain protections for law enforcement officers. Moreover, the officer is limited to only conducting an arrest for one of the three enumerated situations in 40-7-109, but may not perform other police activities such as “Terry stops.” Here, it appears from the record the Defendant did commit a “public offense” (speeding) in the officer’s presence, so the officer was permitted to make an arrest and conduct further investigation. There is perhaps a separate question of whether the officer committed an offense by impersonating an officer in effecting the traffic stop using his patrol car, since the officer was actually acting as a private citizen, but that does not necessarily make Defendant’s underlying arrest unlawful.