A bail bondsman in Georgia may have needed his own professional services after he was arrested for reportedly making an illegal arrest over the weekend.
On Sunday, bail bondsman Deondre Owens was driving around on Georgia Highway 400 in northern Atlanta when he spotted a driver in another vehicle hit another car but continue driving as though nothing had happened. Owens then reportedly pursued the alleged hit-and-run driver and managed to pull the person over near the Lenox exit ramp.
According to police, Owens then grabbed a rifle, a police vest, and a pair of handcuffs and approached the other driver. Police said Owens even convinced the male driver, whose name has not been given, to exit his vehicle, at which point, Owens clapped him in handcuffs and compelled the man to follow him to a police officer, who had since arrived on the scene. Upon bringing the hit-and-run suspect to the police officer, Owens reportedly identified himself as a bail bondsman.
However, as Owens is not a police officer and has only limited authority to make arrests as a bail bondsman, Owens was placed under arrest, not the hit-and-run suspect. Owens was charged with aggravated assault and false imprisonment. Under Georgia law, those convicted of aggravated assault can face up to 20 years in prison, and those convicted of false imprisonment can face up to 10 years.
“Even if this bail bondsman observed the criminal act of a hit and run,” argued Atlanta attorney Bruce Hagen, “that does not give him the authority to apprehend the person that you would accuse of being the hit and run driver.”
The hit-and-run suspect was not arrested, but was issued citations.
Though Georgia law used to permit civilians to make a citizen’s arrest, the Georgia legislature recently “took up this issue to eliminate the citizen’s arrest,” Hagen stated, in the wake of Ahmaud Arbery’s death in February 2020.
Arbery, a 25-year-old black man, was murdered by three white men who had suspected him of robbery.
Rather than illegally arrest or detain a suspect, citizens are encouraged to call 911 and allow police to make an arrest at their own discretion.