Overhaul of citizen’s arrest law heading to Gov. Kemp’s desk

Georgia Gov. Brian Kemp, right, bumps fists with Democratic state Rep. Carl Gilliard of Garden...
Georgia Gov. Brian Kemp, right, bumps fists with Democratic state Rep. Carl Gilliard of Garden City on Tuesday, Feb. 16, 2021, at the state Capitol in Atlanta. The Republican Kemp announced a plan to abolish Georgia's citizen's arrest law, partly blamed in the 2020 shooting death of Ahmaud Arbery near Brunswick, Ga. (AP Photo/Jeff Amy)(APAP Photo/Jeff Amy)
Updated: Mar. 31, 2021 at 11:09 PM EDT
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SAVANNAH, Ga. (WTOC) - A top priority this legislative session was passing an overhaul of Georgia’s Citizen’s Arrest law.

House Bill 479 passed with overwhelming bipartisan support in both the House and Senate.

Garden City Representative Carl Gilliard co-sponsored the bill. He says he has been working to pass legislation like this for a couple years and if made into law, Georgia would be the first state to repeal a citizen’s arrest law.

House Bill 479 passed it’s final hurdle Wednesday after lawmakers in the House voted 169-0 on an amendment to the bill.

For Representative Carl Gilliard, the bill’s passing is personal.

“In 1957, my brother, lost his life in Pembroke to what was deemed as a citizen’s arrest and was mutilated. People are losing lives everyday and people have been losing their lives since 1863,” said Rep. Gilliard.

Georgia’s Citizen’s Arrest law was enacted in 1863. After the death of Ahmaud Arbery last year, pressure mounted on lawmakers to pass a bill to get rid of it.

“Those that took his life cried a very, loud proud ‘citizen’s arrest’ and this is a law that since 1863, it’s outdated and antiquated and back in 1863 they would have up to 48 hours to hold someone so it’s important that Georgia set the pace on this bill. We dedicate it definitely to Ahmaud Arbery and any other family that has lost a family member to a citizen’s arrest law.”

If made into law it would repeal the current citizen’s arrest law that allows for private citizens to arrest another person.

However, it will still allow security guards and store employees to hold people accused of a crime until police arrive.

Representative Gilliard says lawmakers from other states like New York and South Carolina are looking into repealing their citizen arrest laws.

He’s looking forward to working with them and others around the country.

“Georgia has spoke very boldly that they truly want to become the state that’s too busy to hate.”

Representative Gilliard is hopeful Governor Kemp will sign HB 479 into law as it now heads to his desk.

The governor has 40 days to sign or veto the bill or he has the option of not taking it up at all.

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