Can Police Officers Arrest Someone Out of Scope of Employment ?
In Commonwealth v. Carlson, 705 A.2d 468 (Pa. Super. 1998), the Superior Court addressed whether a statute that limited specialized police officers to arrest only when acting within the "scope of employment" meant that police officers were acting within that scope only when carrying out their primary duties.
In that case, a wildlife conservation officer arrested a motorist for DUI.
While concluding that the offense of DUI was included among those for which the officer could arrest, citing language from the Pennsylvania Game and Wildlife Code allowing officers to "pursue, apprehend or arrest any individual suspected of any...offense classified as a misdemeanor or felony," the Superior Court, nonetheless, invalidated the arrest based on language contained in the statute that premised the officer's power to arrest on the requirement that the officer act "within the scope of his employment." Carlson, 705 A.2d at 471.
It concluded that the presence of such language focused and limited the officer's authority to that which was "relative to the conduct of specific duties." Id.
Significantly rather than simply imbuing wildlife conservation officers with the power to arrest at any time, the language "when acting within the scope of the officer's employment" was chosen to define when they are permitted to act.
Additionally, the legislature did not use broader and more permissive language such as "any time the officer is on duty."
Had the legislature used such language, the officer likely would have been authorized to effect this arrest because he was on duty at the time he first observed Appellant's driving.
However, the statute does not appear to contemplate a wildlife conservation officer pursuing or arresting an individual when the reasonable suspicion or probable cause to suspect a violation of the law occurs when the officer is acting outside the scope of his primary duties. Id. at 471.