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March 11, 2021

Capitol Update: Citizen's Arrest Legislation Passes the Georgia House

On Crossover Day, March 8, the Georgia House of Representatives unanimously passed House Bill 479, sponsored by Rep. Bert Reeves (R – Marietta). This legislation would repeal Georgia’s antiquated Citizen’s Arrest statute and close dangerous legal loopholes that could be used to justify future acts of vigilantism against Georgians. It would also ensure that private businesses and law enforcement retain the ability to temporarily detain lawbreakers when necessary and appropriate. At the same time, it would not infringe on private citizens’ rights to defend themselves under the state’s existing self-defense and stand your ground statutes.

Issue Summary:

The bill clarifies who may reasonably detain an individual and when:

  • A private person may detain an individual if that private person is:
    • An owner or employee of a retail or food services establishment who has reasonable grounds to believe an individual has committed or attempted to commit certain theft crimes.
    • A weight inspector, when needed to perform their duties.
    • An operator of a private security or detective business, when needed to perform their business.
  • A law enforcement officer may arrest a lawbreaker outside of the officer’s jurisdiction when the offense occurs in the officer’s presence or immediate knowledge, when the officer is in “hot pursuit” of a lawbreaker who committed an offense within the officer’s jurisdiction, or when the officer is assisting other officers in their duties.

The bill further clarifies that a private person who detains an individual must either release the individual or contact law enforcement within a reasonable time. It also precludes the use of force that is intended or likely to cause great bodily harm or death, except in limited self-defense situations; however, it permits the use of reasonable force to the extent necessary to detain an individual.

This bill also provides liability protection from false arrests and false imprisonment claims to owners and operators of retail businesses and food services establishments who properly detain individuals under the new law.


MAC Position: Support

Sponsor: Rep. Bert Reeves

Status History:

  • 3/8/21 - Passed the House of Representatives
  • 3/4/21 – Passed House Judiciary
  • 2/16/21 – Introduced in the House

 Read House Bill 479 here.


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