Gov. Kemp announces overhaul of Citizen’s Arrest Statute

On Wednesday, Gov. Brian Kemp along with Lt. Governor Geoff Duncan and several other state...
On Wednesday, Gov. Brian Kemp along with Lt. Governor Geoff Duncan and several other state leaders announced that the amended 2021 fiscal year budget for Georgia will include a one-time bonus of $1,000 to state employees making less than $80,000 per year.(WALB)
Published: Feb. 17, 2021 at 4:01 PM CST
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ATLANTA, Ga. (WTOC) - Georgia Gov. Brian Kemp announced legislation Tuesday that aims to overhaul Georgia’s Citizen Arrest Statute.

“I am proud to announce my administration’s significant reforms to our citizen’s arrest statute to prevent evil acts of vigilantism and keep our communities safe,” said Governor Kemp. “One of the most fundamental rights of any citizen is the right to defend themselves or others, and this legislation does not undermine or infringe on that sacred protection. This bill repeals the current Civil War-era statute in order to prevent the terrible consequences of a vague and outdated law, and clarifies when a citizen, business owner, or law enforcement officer may reasonably detain an individual.”

“I believe it is time for Georgia to take another step toward a better, safer and more just future for our state,” said Gov. Kemp.

Gov. Kemp said this proposed bill looks to close several “loopholes” in the old statute that allowed for possible vigilantism.

More on the proposed bill from the Governor’s Office:

Section 1 - Gives law enforcement officers the right to perform arrests outside of their respective jurisdictions in three circumstances:

  • When an offense is committed in the officer’s presence or immediate knowledge;
  • When the officer is in “hot pursuit” of an offender and the offender leaves the officer’s jurisdiction while attempting to escape;
  • When the officer is assisting law enforcement officers of another jurisdiction.

Section 2 - Repeals Georgia’s citizens’ arrest statutes.

Section 3 - Creates Code Section 17-4-80 and creates specific instances in which a private person may detain someone:

  • A “shopkeeper’s privilege” is created which would allow owners of businesses and their employees to detain offenders who the owner or employee has probable cause to believe is committing a theft on the premises of the owner’s establishment.
  • A provision allowing restaurant owners and their employees to detain offenders whom the owner or employee has probable cause to believe are attempting to “dine and dash.”
  • A provision allowing weight inspectors to detain individuals when needed in the course of their duties.
  • A provision allowing licensed private security officers and private investigators to detain individuals when conducting their duties in the performance of their businesses.
  • A detained offender must either be released, or the owner or employee must contact law enforcement within an hour to remove the detained individual. If a law enforcement officer does not arrive within one hour of the initial detention, the detained individual must be released along with their personal belongings.
  • A provision is included stating that nothing in this Code Section shall be construed to limit or alter any defense under Georgia’s defense of self and property statutes, or Georgia’s “stand your ground” statute.
  • A provision is included prohibiting the use of force that is likely to cause death or great bodily harm to detain someone under this Code Section unless the detention is to protect self, others, ones’ habitation, or to prevent a forcible felony.

Sections 4-6 - Clean up references to the current citizen’s arrest statute found throughout the Official Code of Georgia.

Section 7 - Provides civil immunity to retail business and restaurant owners who properly detain individuals under the newly created Code Section 17-4-80 from false arrest and false imprisonment claims.

Section 8 - Once passed, this Act will become effective immediately upon the Governor’s signature.

Section 9 - Repeals any conflicting provision remaining in the Code.

On May 5 a viral video shocked the world. It shows two men who are accused of chasing down and shooting Ahmaud Arbery to death because they believed he was a burglary suspect.

“Ahmaud was a victim of vigilante style of violence that has no place in Georgia. Some tried to justify the actions of his killers by claiming they had the protection of an antiquated law that is right for abuse,” said Gov. Kemp.

That law, the Georgia Citizen’s Arrest Law conceived in 1863.

“One of the problems we had with the antiquated, outdated law was they gave you up to 48 hours to detain someone and hold them,” said State Rep. Carl Gilliard.

Representative Carl Gilliard says for two years he has been the person who’s introduced the bill and since Arbery’s death he’s been behind getting rid of the law.

“We as citizens cannot be judge and jury,” said Rep. Gilliard. “You go to Walmart, you go to a business and you’re accused of being a shoplifter. They should call the professionals and call the law enforcement. Then they have up to an hour to detain you or to let you go. The restaurants, the shop openers, the weight inspectors all have the same privileges.”

Governor Kemp says the legislation doesn’t undermine or infringe on peoples’ right to defend themselves or others. It’ll even provide civil immunity to those who do so in accordance with the law.

“We gotta give the law enforcement the chance to do their job,” said Rep. Gilliard.

This announcement comes just one week before the anniversary of Arbery’s death.

“Hundreds and thousands of people marched all last year for justice. We need to march with the power of our pen and to do due diligence with legislation, but to do this on this anniversary is very significant,” said Rep. Gilliard.

Governor Kemp says this overhaul for the statute has the broad support of republicans and democrats in the general assembly. It’ll be taken to the House of Representatives and then to the Senate for approval before it’s signed into law.

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