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Georgia Law on Police and Deadly Force

Georgia law allows a person, including a police officer to use deadly force only if the officer reasonably believes that doing so is the only way to prevent death or serious injury to the officer or to third parties. In practice, Georgia police officers rarely face criminal penalties for the unjustified use of deadly force.

Ahmaud Arbery, 25, and Rayshard Brooks, 27, died at the hands of police officers at a time when protesters across the country were calling for justice for George Perry Floyd, Jr., Breonna Taylor, and the many other Black men and women killed by law enforcement officers in the United States. They were only the most recent victims of police brutality. In Georgia alone, police have fatally shot 182 people since 2015. The total number of years of incarceration handed down in sentences for these officers is 12 years; in other words, that is about 24 days behind bars for each person killed. If that is not getting away with murder, then what is? In fact, most of the officers involved in the deadly shooting never faced criminal charges at all. The 12-year sentence went to one officer, Robert Olsen, who fatally shot a naked and unarmed Air Force veteran in 2015; Olsen was acquitted of murder but sentenced to 12 years on lesser charges. The criminal defense lawyers of Ghanayem & Rayasam are committed to reforming the criminal justice system, including ending abusive policing practices, as well as to upholding the rights of all defendants in criminal cases.

When is Deadly Force Justifiable?

According to Fulton County District Attorney Paul Howard, police officers should not be above the law. Law enforcement officers should be held to the same standard that applies to everyone else when determining whether their use of force is justifiable. According to Georgia law, it is only permissible to inflict violence on someone if you have reasonable fear that the person is going to attempt to kill or seriously injure you or another person in the immediate future. Therefore, in determining whether Garrett Rolfe will face criminal charges for the shooting death of Brooks, prosecutors must determine whether Brooks was endangering Rolfe’s life, and if so, whether Rolfe used the minimum amount of force necessary to save himself; they must also determine whether Rolfe acted reasonably. Reasonable force and reasonable fear are important issues in determining whether a person’s violent action was a crime or merely self-defense.

Mayor Keisha Lance Bottoms said that there is a difference between what police officers technically can do and what justice and reason dictate that they should do. Cheryl Dorsey, a retired sergeant with the Los Angeles Police Department, said that police should use deadly force only as a last resort, when there is no other option. She outlined many other ways that Rolfe could have responded to the situation after Brooks fled; for example, he already had enough information about Brooks that he could have police arrest him later for stealing Rolfe’s Taser and attempting to elude an officer, or he could have simply called for backup to contain Brooks’ escape.

The Atlanta Criminal Defense Lawyers at Ghanayem & Rayasam Stand for Justice

No matter the crime and no matter the circumstance, you have the right to due process, and your criminal defense lawyer will help you exercise that right. Contact Ghanayem and Rayasam in Atlanta, Georgia about your criminal charges.