In the wake of the shooting of Ahmaud Arbery, dueling bills have been filed in the Georgia House of Representatives to make changes to the state’s “citizen’s arrest” law § 17-4-60. Oddly enough, a citizen’s arrest was never even a factor in the Arbery case…until a District Attorney invented the claim weeks after the fact.
The McMichaels never said they were doing that when the son shot Arbery, nor did their police report account of what happened support a “citizen’s arrest.”
HB 1213 clarifies the existing statute by carefully defining terms and when a person can be lawfully detained by a private person. Most of this is already the law in Georgia, but now you would be able to find everything under one statute, instead of searching through several.
A notable change is when one may detain person attempting to escape. Currently, the law allows pursuit when it is known (not suspected, as some have suggested) that a felony has been committed. HB 1213 changes that from any felony to a forcible felony; a crime of violence against a person. Property crimes are specifically ruled out.
I consider HB 1213 to be reasonable. Carl Gilliard’s [D-Garden City] HB 1203 Criminal procedure; arrest by private persons; repeal article is another matter. As the title says, it’s a complete repeal of § 17-4-60, allowing no lawful citizen’s arrest at all. I believe enacting this bill would get a lot of people killed or put them in legal jeopardy.
While some people think of a “citizen’s arrest” in terms of holding a shoplifter or the like, it happens more often than that. A homeowner holding a burglar or home invader at gunpoint, waiting for the police to show up is technically performing a citizen’s arrest. If § 17-4-60 is simply repealed, all a criminal caught in the act has to do is walk away. Once he’s not attacking a person and trying to leave, he’s immune to arrest by anyone but law enforcement.
Without § 17-4-60, a criminal could kick in your door, grab your jewelry and leave. He can act with impunity so so long as he sticks to property crimes. Legally, there would be nothing you could do about it but call 911 and watch your property depart with the criminal who’s probably going to repeat himself at another home. Sounds like quite the boon to the criminal class, which happens to be a Democrat core constituency. I’m reasonably confident that’s what Gilliard had in mind, but he didn’t think this through.
With no ability to perform an arrest, Joe Homeowner has a choice: 1) watch the family jewels walk away, or stop the thief. To do that, he will have to shoot him. Lethal force would be necessary because then only Joe’s story of how the criminal forced him to defend himself against a physical attack gets heard.
For that matter, ’round here, there’s most always a handy gator to dispose of inconvenient bodies, precluding any need for calling 911. I suspect that option is occasionally invoked in some of the more rural areas anyway, citizen’s arrest law or not.