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Queens lawmaker’s measure to repeal citizen’s arrest law in New York passes in Senate

State Senator Michael Gianaris passes legislation to end citizen’s arrest in New York. (Courtesy of Gianaris’ office)

June 5, 2023 By Bill Parry

State Senator Michael Gianaris on June 2 announced that his legislation to end citizen’s arrests in New York passed in the upper chamber.

Gianaris first introduced his citizen’s arrest repeal measure in the wake of the killing of Ahmaud Arbery, a 25-year-old Black man in Georgia who was murdered by two white men trying to effect a citizen’s arrest in their neighborhood in February 2020.

Gianaris introduced the bill following the murder of Ahmaud Aubrey in Georgia which set off intense protests in Times Square in 2020. (Photo by Dean Moses)

Citizen’s arrest laws allow untrained individuals to apprehend alleged suspects. Existing New York state law allows private individuals to arrest someone without a warrant for any crime, at any time of the day. In some circumstances, these individuals do not even need to inform the prospective arrestee of the reason for performing the arrest.

Private individuals are also currently authorized by law to use “such physical force as is justifiable” to effectuate the arrest, posing a significant danger to New Yorkers.

The proposal would not affect a people’s ability to defend themselves or others from harm, Gianaris explained.

Juvenile suspects are subject to similar citizens’ arrest provisions. Currently, anyone under the age of 16 may be taken into custody by a private person for committing an act that would subject an adult to a similar arrest. Juveniles do not need to be informed of the reason for being taken into custody.

“Citizen’s arrests are a dangerous and historically abused practice that should not be allowed to continue,” Gianaris said. It’s past time to end laws like this that have been used by racists to advance their bigoted goals.”

He added that efforts to repeal citizen’s arrest laws are currently underway in several states and recently enacted in Georgia. Syracuse Assemblywoman Pamela Hunter is sponsoring companion legislation in the lower chamber.

“Citizen’s arrest is a long outdated and unnecessary practice that must be removed from law to prevent future tragedies,” Hunter said. “Many of those who attempt these arrests have no formal training and needlessly instigate confrontations based on prejudice and misinformation. I look forward to working with Senator Gianaris on this legislation so that New York may continue to lead in securing these critical criminal justice reforms.”

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