GA Governor Brian Kemp Signs Bill Repealing Citizen’s Arrests in Response to Murder of Ahmaud Arbery

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Georgia Governor Brian Kemp (R) has signed a measure repealing the ability of the state‘s residents to perform citizen’s arrests after outrage at the 2020 murder of Ahmaud Arbery raised concerns about the practice.

Arbery, a Black man, was murdered by father and son duo Greg and Travis McMichael, who chased Arbery and gunned him down as he jogged in their neighborhood. Waycross Judicial Circuit District Attorney George Barnhill sparked controversy after referring to Arbery’s killing as “justifiable homicide” when he cited Georgia’s citizen arrest law, dating to the Civil War era.

The legislation Kemp signed, House Bill 479, repeals the law altogether. The new legislation generally prohibits private citizens from detaining others and can only use force if it’s in self-defense or to prevent a “forcible felony” such as murder. The legislation still allows business owners to detain individuals suspected of stealing and must then release them to authorities.

“This bill makes Georgia the first state in the country to repeal its citizen’s arrest statue,” Kemp said before signing the measure. “Today we are replacing this Civil War-era law, ripe for abuse, with language that balances the safety and right of self-defense to person and property with our shared responsibility to root out injustice and set our state on a better path forward.”

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Kemp said Arbery was a “victim of vigilante-style violence that has no place in our country or our state.”