Georgia lawmaker files bill to change citizen's arrest law

A state lawmaker has filed legislation to change Georgia's citizen's arrest statute after the death of Ahmaud Arbery.

State Rep. Jeff Jones, R-Brunswick, dropped the "Citizen's Detainment Act" Tuesday.

"I think an important distinction to make here is that arrest powers need to be left in the hands of certified peace officers," explained Rep. Jones.  "I, as a citizen, can detain you, but that detention and the law spells out, is until a certified peace officer can arrive on the scene and take charge." 

Arbery, 25, lived in Jones' district and was killed earlier this year when two men allegedly tried to execute a citizen's arrest. A third man has also been charged in Arbery's murder.

"The tragic shooting of Ahmaud Arbery hits home, close to home. You know, and it's a shame that that young man lost his life because two folks decided to take law enforcement and become judge and jury, ultimately, into their own hands. And we just need to say as a civilized society, you know, we're not going to allow that," Rep. Jones said.  

Sign up for FOX 5 email alerts

Under the legislation, everyday citizens could detain someone only if they witnessed them committing a crime and they would not be allowed to use deadly force in the case of a property crime. Jones said with the technology we now have at our disposal, "detain" does not necessarily mean physically hold someone.

"'Detain' can be, 'Stop! I see you taking my stuff, my TV, my circular saw. Stop! I've got you on video. You are caught. You need to stop. I'm taking your picture," Jones explained. "That's the kind of detention we want to allow." 

Members of the House Democratic Caucus, however, want to eliminate the law completely. 

"From my perspective and the perspective of the House caucus, anything that falls short of totally repealing is just unacceptable," said State Rep. Dar'shun Kendrick, D-Lithonia. "There is no reason that a citizen in the State of Georgia should feel empowered to make any type of arrest, particularly given the environment that we're in."

Download the FOX 5 Atlanta app for breaking news and weather alerts.

Rep. Jones argued that getting rid of the law altogether would tie the hands of security guards at retail stores and no longer allow them to stop people who try to walk out with merchandise. 

With a limited number of days left in the 2020 legislative session, Jones said it is unlikely his bill will pass this year.  He will not be back in 2021, because he lost his re-election bid earlier this month, but Jones said he felt it was important to get the conversation started.