House Judiciary Non-Civil Committee To Meet for Second Hearing on Citizen’s Arrest Statute
Tomorrow, July 23, the House Judiciary Non-Civil Committee will meet for another hearing on Georgia’s Citizen’s Arrest statute. It will be the second in a series of hearings intended to give legislators a chance to hear from relevant stakeholders about the possibility of repealing this archaic statute, including advocacy organizations, faith leaders, defense attorneys, law enforcement officers and prosecutors.
The committee met (over Zoom) for the first time on July 13th. You can watch the first hearing here. Members of the committee were able to hear from a variety of stakeholders- including Marissa Dodson, SCHR’s Public Policy Director, Rev. James Woodall, State President of the Georgia NAACP, and Christopher Bruce, the Political Director of the ACLU of Georgia. We are grateful for the work of our partnering organizations in presenting both the historical context of Georgia’s citizen’s arrest law and its modern harmful implications to lawmakers.
There are common misconceptions about the impact of repealing the statute, such as the fear that to eliminate citizens’ arrest would prevent Georgians from being able to defend themselves or others. In the first meeting, advocates tried to clear up some of those misunderstandings. “Often, when I speak to people about the need to repeal the law someone will say, ‘Without citizens’ arrest what would a person be able to do if they saw someone being raped, or what could I do if someone breaks into my house…’ the simple answer is: repealing citizens’ arrest would have no impact on the state’s self-defense laws,” Marissa Dodson testified.
Testimony also focused on the racist history and implications of the statute, which dates back to 1863. “It’s why the pain resulting from Mr. Arbery’s murder in connection with this statute resonates so loudly, because it has those echoes of trying to chase and trap another human being,” Representative Josh McLaurin testified. “Regardless of if this was invoked correctly or not in the first place (regarding Arbery’s death), there is no escaping the legislative intent of why this statute was created in the first place,” Rev. Woodall testified. “And so to ignore that would be to, literally, be complicit in white supremacy.”
Tomorrow is another opportunity for Georgia lawmakers to further the effort to repeal citizens’ arrest and prohibit private persons from conducting arrests. Given the racist history of Georgia’s citizen’s arrest laws, and the safety risk they pose both to the person conducting the arrest and the person being arrested, SCHR asks that the House Judiciary Non-Civil Committee issue a written recommendation that the relevant laws be repealed. Arrests should only be authorized when conducted by trained law enforcement officers. People interested in watching the hearing live can do by using this link at 10 AM tomorrow: https://livestream.com/accounts/25225474/events/9117221