GA and Citizen's Arrest

Under the Georgia Code, Civil War-era laws regarding the rights of citizens to detain others suspected of crimes remain on the books, despite advocates calling for change.

In Georgia, citizen’s arrest laws have been in effect for over 150 years. Originally designed to provide greater protection for people in an era during which communications and travel were limited, these laws allowed citizens to intervene and apprehend suspects so that they could be brought to justice. While much has changed since citizen’s arrest laws were first established, proponents of the law vigorously defend keeping it on the books. However, our Atlanta criminal law attorneys explain how recent applications of citizen’s arrest laws have opened the door to claims of civil rights abuses and prompted calls for change.

Georgia Citizen’s Arrest Law

Rules and regulations regarding citizen’s arrest in Georgia can be found under Section 17-4-60 through 61 of the Georgia Criminal Code. Established during the late 1860s, the law authorizes private citizens to make an arrest of others if a crime is committed in their presence or in cases in which they have immediate knowledge that one occurred. It applies when a suspected felony crime is committed, such as:

A private citizen may make an arrest to prevent the suspect from evading law enforcement and fleeing the scene. Once a citizen’s arrest is made, the arresting person must take the suspect and any belongings removed from them to the police or a judicial officer ‘without unnecessary delay.’ However, if allegations of false arrest or unlawful imprisonment arise out of the situation, the person who made the arrest may face criminal charges themselves. 

Proposed Repeal of Georgia Citizen’s Arrest Law

While police often rely on private citizens to act as their ‘eyes and ears,’ they generally no longer need them to be actively involved in apprehending and detaining suspects. In fact, many law enforcement officials prefer that people leave arrests to those with the proper training and skill as citizen’s arrests have the potential to go horribly wrong. 

According to a July 14, 2020 report by the Georgia Reporter, lawmakers in Georgia are calling for a repeal of the law after a recent attempted citizen’s arrest left one man dead and made national headlines. The case involved Ahmaud Arbery, a black man jogging through a predominantly white neighborhood. Several men suspected Arbery of stealing and began pursuing him in pick-up trucks. Arbery was fatally shot by one of them. The tragedy called attention to problems with citizen’s arrest laws, namely that they could leave innocent suspects suffering irreparable harm.

Contact Our Gwinnett County Criminal Defense Attorneys

At Zimmerman & Associates, we provide the aggressive legal representation needed in situations involving citizen’s arrest. To request a consultation, call or contact our Norcross criminal defense attorneys online today.