Legislation to Reform Citizen’s Arrest Law Introduced

State Rep. Bert Reeves (R-Marietta) has introduced legislation to reform Georgia’s citizen arrest law, which has been on the books for some 150 years. The proposed reforms come almost a year to the day of the death of Ahmaud Arbery, who was killed in Glynn County when two men, a father and son, tried to perform a citizen’s arrest. The pair of men also reportedly use a racial epithet after shooting Arbery.

The legislation, HB 479, would repeal the existing citizen’s arrest statutes, allow law enforcement to make arrests when they are outside of their jurisdiction under certain circumstances, and defines specific instances in which a private person may detain an individual. There are additional provisions, including a civil liability shield for retail businesses and restaurants that detain individuals.

Reeves is one of Gov. Kemp’s floor leaders. In a release, Kemp said, “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 This bill repeals the current Civil War-era statute in order to prevent the terrible consequences of a vague and outdated law, and clarifies when a citizen, business owner, or law enforcement officer may reasonably detain an individual.”

Kemp said HB 479 has “broad, bipartisan support in the General Assembly, our law enforcement community, and among civil rights advocacy groups.”

“As state leaders, we owe it to our children to root out injustice wherever it is found and leave this state better than we found it. I believe Republicans and Democrats can rise to the challenge again, put aside partisan politics, and support a balanced approach to overhauling Georgia’s citizen’s arrest law,” he added.

HB 479 has been referred to the state House Judiciary Committee.

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