A citizens’ arrest is when one member of the public “arrests” another. Lawmakers gave people the power to do this over a century and a half ago in order to prevent people escaping from slavery.
However, last month Georgia lawmakers repealed the state’s citizens’ arrest law. They did so after widespread outcry after a prosecutor attempted to use the law to justify a high-profile killing of an innocent man out jogging.
Does the citizen’s arrest repeal now mean only the police can detain me?
While the repeal prevents members of the public from arresting you, it does not necessarily mean they cannot detain you until a law officer arrives. There are still specific cases in which a member of the public can detain someone. Owners or employees of businesses such as stores or restaurants retain the right to detain anyone they think has stolen from them or is who is trying to leave without paying.
The changes to the law also limit when people can use deadly force in such circumstances. They restrict the use of deadly force, or force intended to cause severe injury to the following circumstances: self-defense, defense of others, or to stop the person from carrying out a “forcible felony.” A forcible felony refers to when someone threatens or uses physical force against another person in a crime that would classify as a felony.
If the police arrest you after a member of the public detained you, you need to understand whether or not the citizen acted within the new version of the law. If they did not, then you may be able to use that illegality to defend yourself against the resulting criminal charges.