Helmet cam saves cyclist from false criminal allegation and citizen's arrest
Two mountain bikers legally using a trail were ordered to leave, accused of trespassing and harassed by a woman named Julie. Then they were reported to the police for criminal assault on her neighbor. Only the helmet camera footage saved them from all sorts of legal trouble.
It started as a simple bike ride in the wilderness. The cyclists were looking for their access point from a public road. It was not the direction from which they had been accessing this forest so the entry point was confusing. They followed signs and the roadway to a gate that was locked. They met a local woman named "Julie" who was going through the gate with a key. She said the Hydro company owned the road in and didn't allow cyclists. She said she was allowed through to get to her land beyond. What she did not say was that the road beyond this gate was actually briefly on her land too. The cyclists figured out that they had the wrong gate and rode around the corner to the correct one. They began cycling north, as they were allowed to do.
Julie returned and saw their van parked nearby. She made the assumption that they entered through the locked gate somehow and then trespassed across a short stretch of her road to get to the power lines and trails. She drove her truck on the trail to track them down and angrily confront them. She roared up in her truck and began yelling, refusing to even listen to them. She screamed and swore, telling them to go back to their vehicle. She was confusing and hard to follow but told them they had trespassed. They didn't know where the alleged trespass happened because they knew the hydro company owned the land at their access point and the rest was public property. She seemed convinced they had trespassed until she claimed that she had seen them going through the gate. They knew this was a complete lie. She also said that she owned the land where she was now confronting them. This was another obvious lie. They knew this at the time, but later confirmed where her property was. It was a long way south of their confrontation and she knew it.
The cyclists asserted that they were on public property and had accessed the trails where permitted by the hydro company. This is a trail system in Ontario, Canada. It stretches hundreds of miles and runs through Parry Sound, where this took place. Entry to the three power lines can be gained in several spots. Dave, the cyclist had been using the trails just north of there for over 20 years and had actually spoken with hydro employees earlier that day and on many occasions prior. The proper entrances are clearly marked that ATVs, bikes, and snowmobiles can use the trail at their own risk.
Sensing trouble after the first minute of the confrontation, Dave turned on his helmet camera and told Julie it was recording. Julie's demeanor changed instantly, but she still told them to go back and get off the trail. Dave said they would keep going north. Julie angrily left and said she was calling the van plates in to report the "trespassing" to police. Dave knew that police could figure out who he was with the plate information and a first name. He didn't believe that Julie was actually calling the police when she didn't own the land and had not seen actual trespassing.
Dave and his wife rode for over an hour before returning to the hydro company property where they would get to Kirkham Road and their van.They did wonder if Julie would confront them again but agreed to deal with things as they happened. When a white truck pulled up alongside Dave, and the driver told them to go along a trail to the west, they tried to continue straight. Julie had called her neighbor, Dave, and he came out to confront the cyclists. He located them on hydro property. He swerved at the cyclists to block them from riding past. Cyclist Dave had shoes clipped into his pedals and he was riding over sand. He swerved and braked to avoid being hit and he tipped off the bike. He walked it around the truck as the driver got out and ordered him to stay where he was. Dave, the driver claimed the police were coming.
Suspecting that Julie and her friends were the only ones around the corner, Dave and his wife were not waiting as he called. They intended to ride to their van at the road.
Dave had no lawful right to arrest anyone, even though he was wearing a shirt that seemed to identify him as part of the Canadian Coast Guard. He tried to place cyclist Dave under citizen's arrest. There are a few problems with that scenario because Dave has no authority to arrest anyone. He was on hydro property, not his own. If he personally witnessed a criminal act on his own property, he could possibly arrest somebody there. He cannot arrest anyone off his own property and he cannot arrest anyone based on hearsay information from Julie or speculation. Trespassing wouldn't even be a criminal act. It is a Provincial Offence. Dave also has no need to arrest cyclists that can be identified easily by their van. Arresting somebody requires authority and understanding. Ill informed citizens should never try it. Cyclist Dave actually understands the law and he knows without a doubt that Sheriff Dave is acting unlawfully.
Sheriff Dave jumped in front of the cyclist as he clipped his shoes in and started to ride away. Dave pushed the bike tire sideways with his leg and grabbed the handlebar, making cyclist Dave fall off and onto him. Sheriff Dave pushed him and had both hands up like he was going to fight, but he was also holding a cell phone. Cyclist Dave struggled to get his feet unclipped and he pushed Sheriff Dave away. As he got on his feet, cyclist Dave pushed Sheriff Dave back again and warned him not to touch him. Both had pushed the other but nothing more. No punches were thrown, although Cyclist Dave could lawfully strike Sheriff Dave at several points in this matter.
Both Daves argued about assault and Cyclist Dave picked up his bike again. While trying to ride away, Sheriff Dave grabbed Cyclist Dave, trying to pull him off his bike. This was easily deflected and Sheriff Dave gave up. It was technically assault, but it was another feeble one. The cyclists rode out, still unsure if police had been called, but they were prepared to call if it had not been done. Police were indeed waiting at the van and an officer explained that there had been allegations against them of assault and trespassing. Julie and Sheriff Dave demanded that criminal and provincial charges be laid.
Cyclist Dave showed the officer helmet camera footage that clearly showed it was he who was assaulted and not Sheriff Dave. It was obvious that Julie and Sheriff Dave had lied. Cyclist Dave had no interest in wasting the officer's time with a feeble assault complaint of his own, but he requested that both of them have things explained so they understood why they cannot harass or arrest cyclists on the trail system.
In a case like this, citizen's arrest is completely unlawful. It is an assault to try to arrest somebody like this. A person has the right to defend themselves against assault and unlawful arrest. The arresting citizen can end up hurt and even charged criminally. There is a good reason why police officers go to police academy to learn the law in relation to arrest. Even security firms provide training on this complicated topic. It is best to leave this stuff to the professionals.
And to be clear, Sheriff Dave is not a real Sheriff.