Georgia Legislature Repeals Civil Warfare-Period Citizen’s Arrest Legislation – Courthouse Information Service

The law was reviewed after the death of black jogger Ahmaud Arbery last year.

The Georgia Capitol Building. (Photo credit: DXR – own work, CC BY-SA 4.0,

ATLANTA (CN) – Georgia House unanimously voted on Wednesday to repeal the Civil War-era Citizen Detention Act, which allowed most citizens to arrest someone they suspected had committed a crime.

House Bill 479 repeals an act originally passed in 1863 that allowed individuals to make arrests if a crime is committed in their presence “or in their immediate knowledge” or if the arrested person had “reasonable” reasons to suspect that one Person has committed a criminal offense.

The law was originally intended to allow white Georgians to recapture slaves. The law was often used during the lynch era to justify mob violence against black people.

Under the new law, bystanders or witnesses to a potential crime would not have the right to arrest people. The use of “reasonable” force to arrest someone is still allowed in circumstances that involve self-defense, internal defense, or the prevention of a violent crime.

Legislation also allows store workers to arrest suspected shoplifters. Restaurant workers can stop and hold people who try to leave without paying for a meal, and licensed security guards and private investigators can also hold people down.

The original citizen’s detention law was re-examined after prosecutors argued that it was justified in February 2020 to reject three white men who shot the death of black jogger Ahmaud Arbery.

Arbery, 25, was running through a coastal Georgia neighborhood last year when he was followed by three white men who claimed he was a burglar.

Despite the presence of a video of the shooting, the men were only arrested or charged after the video leaked and went viral in May.

All three men have since been charged with murder and remain incarcerated.

The bill now goes to Republican Governor Brian Kemp, who in February published a proposal for a bipartisan plan to repeal the statute.

“Our revision of the Georgian Citizens’ Detention Act is striking a critical balance by allowing Georgians to protect themselves and their families while removing the language of civil war in our laws that is ripe for abuse,” said Kemp. “This legislation has widespread support from law enforcement agencies, civil rights groups, and the General Assembly. I look forward to incorporating them into law as we continue to send a clear message that the peach state will not tolerate acts of sinister vigilance in our communities. ”

HB 479 passed the House on a 173-0 vote earlier this month and was sent back to the Senate, where the Senators added the amendment giving business owners the right to apprehend suspected shoplifters.

The amended measure was passed by the Senate 51-1 on the Monday before the final vote on Wednesday.

Republican State Senator Frank Ginn cast the only vote against the bill. During Monday’s debate on the bill, Ginn said he was uncomfortable supporting laws that would not allow him to arrest someone he caught stealing property from his neighbor’s home.

The vote is a continuation of successful efforts to pass a new hate crime law that provides additional criminal penalties for offenders who target their victims on the basis of race, color, gender, sexual orientation, religion, gender, national origin or disability.

Arbery’s death had also sparked calls for the new hate crime law to be passed.

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