Kemp signs new citizen’s arrest legislation for Georgia

The Ahmaud Arbery case was a catalyst or a change in a longtime Georgia law. Here's a look at how and why.
Published: May. 10, 2021 at 8:57 AM EDT|Updated: May. 10, 2021 at 2:42 PM EDT
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ATLANTA (WRDW/WAGT) - Georgia Gov. Brian Kemp today signed into law the state’s new citizen’s arrest legislation, a measure prompted by the killing of Ahmaud Arbery.

Kemp signed the bill shortly after 2 p.m. today at the Georgia Capitol.

Lawmakers first brought up the bill last summer, about four months after the fatal shooting of Arbery in Glynn County. After the Senate voted on it in March, the measure went back to the House with some changes.

“Today, I was proud to sign H.B. 479 to overhaul Georgia’s citizen’s arrest statute, while also protecting every Georgian’s sacred right to defend their person and property,” Kemp said. “After the tragic killing of Ahmaud Arbery, we knew that action was needed to ensure an antiquated, Civil-War era statute could not be used to justify rogue vigilantism in the Peach State.”

The measure repeals a law from 1863 that allows ordinary citizens to make arrests if they knew a crime was being committed.

Deadly force cannot be used under the new measure unless you are protecting yourself, your home or prevent a forcible felony like murder, robbery or kidnapping.

However, licensed security guards, private detectives and weight inspectors would still be able to detain people.

Store or restaurant employees can hold wrongdoers for stealing or without paying for a meal.

Any of these people can only hold someone for an hour.

If law enforcement does not show up, the detained person must be let go with all of their belongings.

The new measure came about after the old citizen’s arrest law was cited as justification for the three suspects in the Arbery killing to chase him down and detain him. They claim they thought he was a burglar.

Father and son Gregory and Travis McMichael and their neighbor William “Roddie” Bryan face state murder charges and federal hate crime charges. The suspects are white and Arbery was Black.

Their state trial is set for October, and they’re set to appear before a judge Tuesday on the federal charges.

Arbery, who has family ties to the CSRA and is buried near Waynesboro, was not armed.

Saturday would have been Arbery’s birthday, and a moment of silence was observed for him at the end of a voting rights rally in the Seventh Street parking lot of the James Brown Arena in Augusta.

Also in the news ...

  • State Rep. Mark Newton, R-Augusta, chairman of the Special Committee on Access to Quality Health Care, today announced that Gov. Brian Kemp signed House Bill 454 into law. Under HB 454, authored by Newton, a patient’s insurance will be required to reimburse health care providers at in-network rates for a certain time period if the health care provider is no longer in-network after the patient’s enrollment period.

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