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What Will Happen if Georgia Repeals its Citizen’s Arrest Law?

Critics argue that the law violates the right to due process and that it has been used as a catch-all excuse for violence against Black people, but if Georgia’s citizen’s arrest law is repealed, you will still have the right to temporarily detain a person if you catch him or her in the act of stealing from your home, vehicle, or business.

A citizen’s arrest is when someone other than a law enforcement officer detains a person they have seen commit a crime or whom they suspect of committing a crime until they can hand the person over to police. When police arrest someone, they must follow a complex set of rules that determine whether they can temporarily deprive the person of his or her liberty; if the officer did not properly follow the rules about arrest warrants and reasonable suspicion, then the defendant can successfully argue that the state has violated his or her right to due process. Therefore, making a citizen’s arrest is a risky move, and whether it was appropriate is often a subjective judgment. There is a fine line between a citizen’s arrest and false imprisonment. If you are facing criminal charges after making a citizen’s arrest or after someone else handed you over to law enforcement, claiming that it was a citizen’s arrest, contact an Atlanta criminal defense lawyer.

Arguments for and Against the Citizen’s Arrest Law

Citizen’s arrest laws have existed in Europe since the Middle Ages; sheriffs encouraged witnesses and crime victims to detain people they had seen committing crimes, making it much easier for law enforcement to arrest them. Even today, supporters of citizen’s arrest laws argue that, if private citizens can defend themselves by detaining perpetrators and then handing them over to law enforcement, after which they will presumably receive a fair trial, this is better than the alternative, where violence or a threat of violence is the only way to stop a thief.

Critics of citizen’s arrest laws argue that they are outdated. Unlike medieval sheriffs, today’s law enforcement officers have cars that enable them to catch suspected criminals much more quickly. Witnesses can help law enforcement identify suspects to arrest by providing photographs and license plate numbers. Besides, there are many more police officers and sheriffs’ deputies in any given jurisdiction today than there were centuries ago. Another criticism is that citizen’s arrest laws give private citizen’s too much leeway to deprive others of their liberty unjustly. Specifically, Georgia’s citizen’s arrest law was passed in 1863, during the Civil War; its original intent was to give private citizens increased freedom to detain African-Americans who had escaped from slavery. The main arguments for repealing the citizen’s arrest law is that it is possible for police to do their jobs without it and that people misuse the law to justify violence against Black people.

Can a Private Citizen Still Detain Someone if the Citizen’s Arrest Law is Repealed?

If Georgia repeals the citizen’s arrest law, there will still be situations in which a private citizen has the right to detain someone. The castle doctrine provides that you can temporarily detain someone who tries to burglarize your house or car. Merchant’s privilege also holds that the employees of a retail store can detain suspected shoplifters until police arrive.

Criminal Defense Lawyers Will Help You Resolve Problems Arising from the Citizen’s Arrest Law

Georgia may repeal the citizen’s arrest law in 2021, but if you are facing criminal charges now, you need a criminal defense lawyer now. Contact Ghanayem and Rayasam in Atlanta, Georgia about your criminal charges.