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February 16, 2021

MAC Supports Gov. Kemp’s Bipartisan Legislation to Overhaul Georgia’s Citizen’s Arrest Statute


On Tuesday, Governor Brian Kemp announced a legislative proposal to repeal and replace Georgia’s 150-year-old Citizen’s Arrest Statute. House Bill 479 will close dangerous legal loopholes that could be used to justify future acts of vigilantism against Georgians. It will also ensure that private businesses, Georgia citizens, and law enforcement retain the ability to defend themselves when necessary.

The bill clarifies when businesses, Georgia citizens, or law enforcement officers may reasonably detain an individual:

  • A business may reasonably detain an individual when there is probable cause to believe the individual is committing a crime on the business’s premises.
  • A Georgia citizen may defend themself and their property in accordance with existing Georgia statutes, including Georgia’s “stand your ground” statute.
  • A law enforcement officer may arrest a lawbreaker outside of the officer’s jurisdiction when the crime occurs in the officer’s presence or immediate knowledge, when the officer is in “hot pursuit” of a lawbreaker, or when the officer is assisting other officers in their duties.

This bill also provides civil immunity (liability protection) from false arrests and false imprisonment claims to retail business and restaurant owners who properly detain individuals under the new law.

The proposed legislation will be sponsored by Rep. Bert Reeves (R-Marietta), one of Governor Kemp’s House Floor Leaders, and will build on 2020’s historic passage of Georgia’s hate crimes legislation, House Bill 426, which empowers law enforcement and prosecutors to seek enhanced sentencing in cases where the victim is targeted out of hate or bias.

MAC supports this bipartisan, balanced effort to reform Georgia’s Citizen’s Arrest Statute to eliminate abusive use of the Civil War-era statute while providing a way for businesses to reasonably detain lawbreakers until law enforcement can respond.  

Read House Bill 479 here.



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