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Governor Whitmer’s Kidnapping: What’s All The Talk About a Citizen’s Arrest?

If you read the news, then you’ve already heard about the alleged kidnapping plot discovered by the FBI that involved several supposed militia members and Michigan’s Governor Whitmer. A total of fourteen people were arrested – all of them men who are accused of being members of, or affiliated with members of, The Wolverine Watchmen militia group – are now being charged with plotting to kidnap the Governor. Some of these defendants are charged in Michigan courts while half of them are charged in federal court. 

A group of soldiers or militia men armed with guns. Being part of a militia is a right in America and doesn't mean there are any ties to any kind of kidnapping plan.

According to the FBI, the plan was months in the making, and involved elaborately staged reenactments of how the members planned to snatch the governor from her vacation home in Northern Michigan. Six of the men have been charged federally with Conspiracy to Commit Kidnapping, which is punishable by up to life in prison. The remaining eight are facing multiple state charges of terrorism, with each count being punishable by up to 20 years behind bars.

Were they kidnapping the governor, or just planning to arrest her?

Barry County Sheriff Dar Leaf, who has been vocal in the past about his dislike of Governor Whitmer’s Covid19 restrictions, says he doesn’t take any of it seriously. He has also made statements to the media about the fact that it may not have been a plot to kidnap the governor at all. In his words which were mirrored by a criminal defense attorney for one of the defendantds, it may have been nothing more than a plan to perform a citizen’s arrest. “Are they trying to kidnap? Because a lot of people are angry with the governor, and they want her arrested. So are they trying to arrest or was it a kidnap attempt?” he asked during an interview with news reporters.

This opinion wasn’t well received though. Attorney General Dana Nessel tweeted her thoughts on the matter shortly afterwards, saying, “As Michigan’s top law enforcement official, let me make this abundantly clear: persons who are not sworn, licensed members of a law enforcement agency cannot and should not ‘arrest’ government officials with whom they have disagreements.” And she’s not the only one who disagreed with Sheriff Leaf’s assessment.

What does Michigan law say about citizen’s arrests?

According to Michigan law, a private citizen is only allowed to make a warrantless citizen’s arrest under four very specific circumstances, which are:

  • If a felony is committed in the presence of a citizen
  • If the suspect “has committed” a felony, but notin the presence of the arresting citizen
  • If the citizen is “summoned” to help a law enforcement officer; and 
  • If the citizen is a retailer or security guard who suspects certain retail fraud violations (like shoplifting).

Technically, according to the Wolverine Watchmen, Whitmer committed treason by trying to enforce unconstitutional restrictions in Michigan in response to the Covid19 pandemic. Treason is a felony, which would fall under the description of a “felony being committed in the presence of a citizen.” However there is always a risk involved when citizens try to arrest other citizens, including later being accused of false imprisonment, which is a serious crime in Michigan. The criminal defense attorneys here at The Kronzek Firm do not believe the citizen’s arrest defense will ultimately be successful in this case. 

Have you made a mistake about your rights? Do you need help figuring it out?

People often misunderstand the law. (And we don’t just mean with regards to kidnapping). They rely on the legal advice of friends, or use random sources online to help them understand statutes. This often leads to people thinking they understand the law when they don’t, and as a result, breaking the law when they think they’re actually doing something legal. This can lead to a lot of trouble down the road, because yes, you guessed it – ignorance of the law is no excuse! 

Being accused of a crime in Michigan means you’re going to be dealing with arrests, police interrogations, potential jail time, criminal charges, and potentially being convicted of a crime and sentenced. But having a highly experienced criminal defense attorney with a long history of successes under their belt can make all the difference to the outcome of your case. So if you’re afraid you may be arrested, or you’ve already been arrested and you need help from an aggressive criminal defense lawyer, call The Kronzek Firm at 866 766 5245. We’re available around the clock to help you deal with life’s unexpected legal emergencies. We’ve been doing criminal defense work since the last century. 

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