ALBANY – New York State Senate Deputy Leader Michael Gianaris announced on June 2 that the Senate passed his legislation (S.167/A.507) to end citizen’s arrests in New York. Senator Gianaris first introduced his citizen’s arrest repeal legislation in the wake of the killing of Ahmaud Arbery, a young man murdered in Georgia by two White individuals trying to effect a citizen’s arrest in their neighborhood. Companion legislation is sponsored by Assembly Member Pam Hunter.
“Citizen’s arrests are a dangerous and historically abused practice that should not be allowed to continue,” said Senate Deputy Leader Gianaris. “It’s past time to end laws like this that have been used by racists to advance their bigoted goals.”
“Citizen’s arrest is a long outdated and unnecessary practice that must be removed from law to prevent future tragedies,” said Assembly Member Pamela J. Hunter. “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.”
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.
Juvenile suspects are subject to similar citizens’ arrest provisions. Currently, anyone under the age of sixteen 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.
Efforts to repeal citizens’ arrest laws like these are currently underway in several states and recently enacted in Georgia.
Video of Sen. Gianaris’ remarks on the passage of his legislation is available online: https://shorturl.at/pHLNV.