The Georgia Senate will take up the provision that will ultimately repeal Georgia’s statute permitting arrests by citizens after the House of Representatives approved the measure Monday.
House Bill 479 by State Representative Bert Reeves passed 173-0 and was followed by a standing ovation.
House Bill 479 does the following:
- Repeals the current Citizen Arrest Statute,
- Replaces with provisions including:
- 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 remaining 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 “A reasonable time” 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.
- Allows a police officer to detain/arrest when offense committed outside of their jurisdiction but in their presence and when aiding another agency
The dialogue on the House floor echoed a heavy memorial for Ahmaud Arbery who died at the hands of two individuals in February 2020. Representative Gloria Frazier lamented that mothers of black children have a much different level of fear to prepare their children for as they grow up, noting that repeal of this law is Step 1 in overhauling the outdated law that ‘unfairly targeted black and brown men in Georgia.’
“Georgia will not tolerate racial profiling,” Frazier said in closing after offering an artificial rose to Wanda Cooper, the mother of the late Arbery.
State Representative Chuck Efstration said all fifty states in the nation have citizen arrest laws and Georgia would be the first in the nation to repeal such a provision should it gain final passage.
Governor Kemp said last month that he supports House Bill 479, saying specifically:
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.”