Governor Kemp Announces Overhaul of Citizen’s Arrest Statute
Atlanta, GA – Governor Brian P. Kemp today announced bipartisan legislation to overhaul Georgia’s citizen’s arrest statute. The bill is being carried by Kemp Administration Floor Leader Representative Bert Reeves (R – Marietta).
“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 This bill repeals the current Civil War-era statute in order to prevent the terrible consequences of a vague and outdated law, and clarifies when a citizen, business owner, or law enforcement officer may reasonably detain an individual.
“Last summer, leaders under the Gold Dome took historic, bipartisan action to pass anti-hate crimes legislation and reaffirm that Georgia is a state too great for hate. Our effort to overhaul the citizen’s arrest statute builds on that work with a balanced approach to protecting the lives and livelihoods of ourselves, our friends, and our neighbors. In a national political climate where it often seems like no one can agree on anything, I am proud to say this bill 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.”
Overhauling Georgia’s Citizen’s Arrest Statute
This bill seeks to repeal Georgia’s current citizen’s arrest law and to tailor the code to protect the rights and safety of Georgians while eliminating any potential legal loopholes that could be used to justify vigilantism.
Section 1 of the bill 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.