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Calling police is better than citizen's arrest

Possibility exists for injury, legal action

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Georgia law gives you permission to detain someone who breaks the law -- even if you didn't see it happen.

But actually performing a citizen's arrest opens up a world of legal and criminal liability, not to mention the possibility of serious injury.

In separate incidents this year, a suspected car thief and a citizen were shot when someone interrupted an alleged crime.

Both highlight the physical risks of taking action before police arrive, but what often goes unrecognized is the possibility of an arrest for false imprisonment or a civil lawsuit.

"If you're right, you're OK. If you're wrong, then it's a bad situation," explained Richmond County Solicitor General Charles Evans.

On Oct. 25, a man chased after a burglar ransacking his brother's truck in the 1100 block of Glenwood Drive in the National Hills neighborhood. The burglar turned and fired, hitting the victim, Christopher Hoops, 23, in the chest.

In August, a man chased a burglar reportedly rifling through his neighbor's car and shot the suspected thief in the chest. Attorney Christopher Corley said his client, Milo Hayes, was badly injured by the gunshot and disputes the version of events provided by investigators.

Corley wouldn't get into specifics until Hayes' "legal issues" are resolved but said what the shooter, Brete Gunby, did was not a citizen's arrest. Gunby was not charged in the shooting; Hayes was charged with entering an automobile.

"Our version is certainly different," Corley said.

Georgia law gives a person the authority to arrest someone for an offense committed in his presence or "within his immediate knowledge." South Carolina permits basically the same, with an added clause allowing lethal force if the arrest is made at night.

Evans said the law is clear, but "actually executing (it) in public is a very dangerous thing to do." An unnecessary or poorly executed citizen's arrest opens a person to criminal arrest for charges including false imprisonment and simple battery. It could also result in a civil lawsuit if a person is injured.

Evans strongly suggests instead calling law enforcement before taking any action because police have more training and more protection under the law to enforce an arrest.

What if action seems absolutely necessary? Say, for instance, you're pumping gas and see an obviously intoxicated driver about to drive away.

"There is a moral fine line," Evans said, but be absolutely sure you're ready to follow through with your action.

Lt. Tim Pearson, of North Augusta Public Safety, said "first and foremost you should put safety first."

In the scenario at the gas station, Pearson would be very careful as a civilian trying to restrain a person under the influence of alcohol. A person with a badge, gun and handcuffs is much better equipped to handle that situation, he said.

He suggests following a suspected drunken driver's vehicle while updating dispatch on the phone with a location.

Information passed on to law enforcement is usually more helpful than stepping in yourself, Pearson said.

Public safety information

To report a crime or suspicious activity, call these nonemergency numbers:

RICHMOND COUNTY SHERIFF'S OFFICE: (706) 823-1080

NORTH AUGUSTA PUBLIC SAFETY: (803) 279-2121

COLUMBIA COUNTY SHERIFF'S OFFICE: (706) 541-2800

Comments (7) Add comment
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AugustaVoter
2
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AugustaVoter 11/15/10 - 12:18 am
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"RICHMOND COUNTY SHERIFF'S

"RICHMOND COUNTY SHERIFF'S OFFICE: (706) 823-1080". I don't know what number that goes to but the RCSO Dispatch is at 706-821-1080.

jg41160
6
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jg41160 11/15/10 - 05:14 am
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"He suggests following a

"He suggests following a suspected drunken driver's vehicle while updating dispatch on the phone with a location." Wouldn't using the phone be illegal?

Taylor B
5
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Taylor B 11/15/10 - 08:19 am
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Jg, its not illegal to talk

Jg, its not illegal to talk on the phone and drive. You are thinking of texting.

OpenCurtain
10049
Points
OpenCurtain 04/19/11 - 03:20 pm
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removed comment

removed comment

overaugusta
0
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overaugusta 11/15/10 - 10:06 am
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unless there has been a

unless there has been a change in policy, dispatch will recommend you not follow the drunken driver.

lifelongresident
1323
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lifelongresident 11/15/10 - 10:31 am
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open, what is necessary is
Unpublished

open, what is necessary is community policing!!! have precincts set up in all areas of the county (not EMPTY substations), this will will reduce response times drastically

AugustaVoter
2
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AugustaVoter 11/15/10 - 10:46 am
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overaugusta, you should

overaugusta, you should follow but stay at a safe distance and obey traffic laws. They don't want you following a speeding vehicle. Then you would be breaking the law also...

crackerjack
150
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crackerjack 11/15/10 - 04:29 pm
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Overaugusta, I think you're

Overaugusta, I think you're right, and recently in Georgia/South Carolina, a couple of Law Enforcement Officers and a Judge were DWI, and we wouldn't want to have that in the media.

211lover
6
Points
211lover 11/16/10 - 11:27 am
0
0
2 months ago a lady turned
Unpublished

2 months ago a lady turned into a car full of elderly people, there were 3 elderly people in the car, a very young girl and a baby in the other, the young lady got out and looked as if she cared, 4 seconds of caring, I was right in front of it all, the young lady jumped back into the car and fled, there was almost no damage and the elderly people seemed ok, so now what? The young lady left the scene of an accident, what if one of the elderly people was hurt but did not realize it at that moment? I called 911, got on with dispatch and started following this girl, staying a ways back, she did not realize I was following her for a couple miles, long story short, she ended up being surrounded by police, no license, no insurance, I filled out a report and left, the police called me and apparently the other car left too. Making a citizens arrest is a very bad idea, because people these days are crazy! Call the cops, let them handle these jokers.. they have radios and guns and not many people will fire at a cop because they know the beat down will happen :)

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