Vigilante Definition and Legal Meaning

On this page, you'll find the legal definition and meaning of Vigilante, written in plain English, along with examples of how it is used.

What is Vigilante?

(n). A Vigilantee is an unauthorized person who conduct a trial on the accused persons with or without collecting evidences or ascertaining the truth and confer punishment to the accused considering the depth of crime involved. A Vigilantee is not legally authorized person to do such trials and order punishments. They get the authority from social status, knowledge, wealth, reputation, physical power etc.

History and Meaning of Vigilante

The term "vigilante" originates from the Spanish word "vigilante," which means "watchman" or "guard." Historically, vigilantes were groups of citizens who took the law into their own hands, bypassing the legal system to punish suspected criminals. They were often motivated by a sense of injustice, a lack of faith in the legal system, or a desire for personal revenge. In the United States, vigilante groups became prevalent during the 19th century in the Western frontier, where law enforcement was sparse or non-existent.

In modern times, the term vigilante is often used to describe individuals who take it upon themselves to enforce the law or punish perceived wrongdoers. These actions are typically outside the bounds of legal authority and can range from relatively minor interventions, such as citizens making a citizen's arrest, to more extreme actions such as violent vigilantism.

Examples of Vigilante

  1. A group of citizens form a neighborhood watch program to keep an eye on suspicious activity in their area and report it to the police.
  2. A woman takes it upon herself to track down and confront her ex-partner's new girlfriend after he is found to be cheating on her.
  3. In the aftermath of a natural disaster, citizens take it upon themselves to guard stores or homes to prevent looting.

Legal Terms Similar to Vigilante

  1. Citizen's Arrest - the act of apprehending a person who has committed a crime, but who has not been arrested by police.
  2. Self-Defense - legally justifiable actions taken to protect oneself or others from harm.
  3. Mob Justice - a form of vigilante justice where a group of people collectively take it upon themselves to administer punishment.