ATLANTA — Georgia House Speaker David Ralston is living up to his pledge to consider moving criminal justice reform beyond the hate crimes bill the General Assembly passed last month.
The House Judiciary Non-Civil Committee, which has jurisdiction over Georgia’s criminal laws, is scheduled to meet Monday to hear testimony on the state’s citizen’s arrest law.
As the legislature wrapped up its 2020 session late last month, Ralston, R-Blue Ridge, said legislation introduced by state Rep. Carl Gilliard, D-Garden City, aimed at eliminating citizen’s arrests in Georgia was worth serious consideration.
But the speaker said lawmakers didn’t have time during the final rush toward adjournment to go beyond the hate crimes bill the legislature passed during the final week of this year’s session. He promised to hold hearings on other criminal justice reform proposals in order to craft legislation for the General Assembly to take up during the 2021 session starting in January.
The right of Georgians to make a citizen’s arrest was at the heart of the fatal shooting last February of Ahmaud Arbery, a 25-year-old black man gunned down while jogging on a street near Brunswick. Three white men, including a father and son, were arrested and charged with murder after a video of the incident surfaced in April.
Gilliard’s bill was among more than a dozen criminal justice and policing reform measures that were filed last month when the legislature returned to the Capitol after lawmakers took three months off to discourage the spread of coronavirus.
During a news conference to call attention to his bill, Gilliard said the citizen’s arrest law is outdated and gives untrained civilians a reason to perpetrate violence in the name of law enforcement.
“We need to understand that citizen’s arrest is dangerous more often than not,” Rep. Mary Margaret Oliver, D-Decatur, said at the time.
Other measures likely to get an airing in legislative committees this summer and fall include proposals to repeal Georgia’s stand-your-ground law, prohibit police officers from engaging in racial profiling and ban no-knock search warrants.