Breaking down Georgia’s Citizen’s Arrest Law

Local News

BRUNSWICK, Ga. (WSAV) – The McMichael’s told police they were attempting to make a citizen’s arrest. News 3 is looking at Georgia’s laws. Georgia’s Citizen’s Arrest Law allows people to arrest anyone that they’ve witnessed committing a crime in their presence or has immediate knowledge of the crime, but attorneys around the state say that wasn’t the case in Ahmaud Arbery’s death.

Managing Partner of Bowen Law Group, Charles Bowen says this situation is “dumbfounding” to him. That’s how Bowen feels about the confrontation between Travis and Gregory McMichael and Ahmaud Arbery.

“Certainly when that video was released my initial thought as an attorney was these people will be in custody within a matter of hours,” Bowen said.

The McMichael’s argued they believed Arbery fit the description of a suspect in a recent string of burglaries.

“Hopping in a truck and chasing after somebody screaming I want to talk to you block after block that is not a citizen’s arrest,” Atlanta attorney, Chris Stewart said.

Stewart is one of the lawyers representing the victim’s family. He said these men abused citizen’s arrest because they didn’t see Arbery committing a crime.

“If you’re in the grocery store and a guy walks in and robs the place and turns his back to you and you tackle and hold him down not shoot him you hold him down until the police get there that’s a citizen’s arrest,” Stewart said.

“The Citizen’s Arrest Law in Georgia does exist but it is extremely rare that it’s ever put into practice,” Bowen said.

Bowen says citizen’s arrest was created to allow retailers to detain someone they believe is shoplifting. That’s why attorneys say this defense will not stand in court.

“What courts have interpreted it to mean is that you can only use the amount of force that’s reasonable to detain a person under the circumstances,” Bowen said.

While the investigation into Ahmaud Arbery’s death remains active experts all agree that this is the time to reevaluate what citizen’s arrest will look like moving forward.

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