Jurisdictional Georgia

I am frequently asked questions concerning the jurisdiction of various law enforcement agencies within the state; so, I thought a rundown of the various agencies and other jurisdictional questions would be in order.

First, I want to clear up the matter of traffic law. Traffic law may be enforced anywhere in the state by any officer.  The alleged offense must be prosecuted in the jurisdiction in which it occurred.  This is codified in 17-4-23 O.C.G.A. and has been upheld numerous times in the Court of Appeals (see State v. Gehris, 528 S.E.2d 300242 Ga. App. 324 (2000); Glazner v. State, 318 S.E.2d 233, 170 Ga. App. 810 (1984); Sullivan v. State, A10A2243, 11 FCDR 582 (2011) ).

UPDATE:  On June 20, 2016, the Georgia Supreme Court made a ruling on the issue of custodial arrests on traffic stops made outside of the statutorily defined jurisdiction of police officers in the case of Zilke v. The State.   My initial reading is that it does not prohibit such stops; it prohibits the custodial arrest by a police officer outside of their statutory jurisdiction.  It seems that a citation would still be legal as would turning the suspect over to a local officer; however, I caution peace officers to seek further clarification. 

Arrest warrants are typically addressed to “any peace officer” and can be executed by any peace officer within the state regardless of whether or not they are in their jurisdiction. Peace officer is the proper term that applies to all officers certified and employed under Title 35 Chapter 8 of Georgia law.

Mutual aid agreements may be instituted among agencies, and officers can be sworn in through multiple agencies as well as being deputized.

Peace officers are also citizens and may still make a citizen’s arrest when outside of their jurisdiction.

Throughout this article I will refer to all of the above as “previously excepted”.

UPDATE:  HB 479 (2021) repealed and replaced Georgia’s citizen arrest law.  It also made changes to the authority of municipal police officers to make arrests outside of their jurisdiction.  See the bill for those specific changes.


Office of Sheriff

Note that I wrote Office of Sheriff and not Department of Sheriff. The Sheriff is a constitutional officer deriving his or her powers from Georgia’s Constitution and common law. The Sheriff’s Office is not a department of county government, and the Sheriff is not subject to the county government; a fact often lost on county governments. The Sheriff is the chief law enforcement officer in the county. Sheriffs and their deputies have statewide jurisdiction.

The Sheriff is an elected position serving four year terms. Due to the elected nature of the office, the Sheriff’s Office is directly accountable to the people which it serves. Some offices are completely “at will” meaning that all employees serve completely at the discretion of the Sheriff. Others are set up so that the Sheriff appoints certain members within the organization. Either way, a new Sheriff coming into office is likely to lead to a transformation of the office; so, it is easy for the people to directly voice approval or disapproval with the service being provided by their Sheriff’s Office via the voting booth.

Every county in Georgia has a Sheriff’s Office as a constitutional requirement. The Sheriff operates the jail and provides court security as well as being responsible for serving civil papers and executing arrest warrants. A “full service” Sheriff’s Office also provides primary law enforcement within unincorporated areas of the county and may contract with municipalities to provide such services within municipalities. Whether or not a contract is in place, the Sheriff still has full jurisdiction within municipalities in his/her county. Having a contract in place simply allows for the municipality to claim that it is providing an essential service under law (discussed more in depth later). Of the 159 Sheriff’s Offices in the state, 147 are full service agencies.

County Police Departments

Twelve counties in Georgia have established county police departments which have a department head appointed by and accountable to the county government. In the counties in which such agencies exist, they assume the primary law enforcement function in unincorporated areas of the county and in municipalities by contract. County police officers only have jurisdiction within their county except as previously excepted.

The twelve counties with such agencies are Chatham, Clarke, Clayton, Cobb, DeKalb, Dougherty, Floyd, Fulton, Glynn, Gwinnett, Henry, and Polk. (Note: I have been contacted by several readers concerning Chatham County being on this list. The Savannah Police Department and the Chatham County Police Department merged several years ago to form the Savannah Chatham Metro Police Department. As this agency operates in lieu of a full service Sheriff’s Office, I still include it on this list.)

One item of note concerning county police agencies should be mentioned here. Frank Rotondo, the Executive Director of the Georgia Association of Chiefs of Police (GACP), in his article in the 2010 1st Quarter Newsletter of the GACP writes that a county cannot operate police services within a municipality without a service delivery agreement between the county and the municipality in place, which is in fact what the Georgia Constitution states in Article IX. So, unless such an agreement is in place, a county police agency does not have jurisdiction in municipalities within its respective county. Mr. Rotondo incorrectly argues that this applies to Sheriffs. As noted above, Sheriffs receive their duties and authority from the Georgia Constitution and not from the county government. This section of the constitution applies to agencies created by the county and not the constitutional Office of the Sheriff. Suppose a municipality does not have a police department and it has no formal contract in place with the Sheriff. Under Mr. Rotondo’s interpretation, the residents of the municipality would have no police services whatsoever as the Sheriff would not be able to provide such services to citizens within his or her county. This argument simply is neither logical nor consistent with the powers, duties, and authorities vested in the Sheriff. Furthermore, state law (15-16-10 O.C.G.A.) clarifies that the Sheriff has the same powers within incorporated municipalities as he or she does in unincorporated areas of the county.

(Author’s Note: Mr. Rotondo wrote his article in response to Senate Bill 295 introduced in the 2010 session of the Georgia General Assembly. This bill, if passed, would have prohibited municipal police agencies from operating speed detection equipment on interstate highways. Mr. Rotondo incorrectly extended this to municipal police departments not being able to enforce any traffic law or work wrecks on the interstate highways, and using this false argument that the Sheriff could not do so within city limits without a service delivery agreement in place, makes a claim that the Georgia State Patrol would then be the only agency allowed to enforce traffic laws on the interstates. This simply is not so. On top of Mr. Rontondo being wrong concerning the authorities, duties, and powers of the Sheriff, he is wrong on how the proposed bill would impact municipal agencies as the bill only deals with the operation of speed detection devices and not general traffic law enforcement or wreck investigations. I offer no opinion on SB295. I am simply addressing the legal issues raised within the article. SB295 did not pass.)

Why county police?

This is a very good question. The state constitution mandates that each county must have a Sheriff. The 12 county police agencies are a creation of their respective county commissions and are under the control of said commissions. As noted above, the Sheriff is independent of the county government. A logical examination of the question leads me to believe that the county police agencies were created so that the respective county commissions could exert control over law enforcement within the county. Whether or not the reader comes to the same conclusion as did I, such creations clearly change the direct line of accountability.

This is a double-edged sword. Whoever is in control is also the final repository for blame when things go wrong. Usually, the appointed chief is the fall guy whether or not the failure was his or her own creation.

The creation of a county police department could previously be done simply by an act of the county commission. State law now requires that the creation of such an agency must be put before the qualified electors (voters) of the county in question. If such an effort fails, the question cannot be put before the voters again until four years has passed (see 36-8-1 O.C.G.A.). It should be noted that all of the county police agencies currently in existence were created prior to the requirement of the issue being put before the voters.

Municipal Police Departments

Obviously, cities may establish their own police departments. The officers that work for such agencies only have jurisdiction within the limits of their respective municipality other than as previously excepted. Under Georgia law, municipalities must provide at least three from a list of 11 of essential services either directly or by contract in order to maintain their charter (see 36-30-7.1 O.C.G.A.). Among the list of these essential services is police service. A municipality may claim that it is providing police services by maintaining its own police department, or it may contract with the Sheriff’s Office or county police department (should one exist) to provide police services within the municipality. The Sheriff’s Office may patrol and answer calls within a municipality without such a contract in place, but the municipality cannot claim this as providing an essential service.

Municipal agencies are typically headed by a chief of police who is appointed by and directly accountable to the municipal government. As to who in the municipal government appoints the chief and to whom the chief directly reports will depend upon the structure of the particular government in question.


Yes, I said constables. Georgia law (15-10-110 through 116 O.C.G.A.) still allows for the appointment of constables.  According to the Georgia Civil Process Association’s web page the following counties have constables in service: Ben Hill, Effingham, Fayette, Gordon, Lee, McDuffie, Spalding, Sumpter, and Whitfield.  According the Lowndes County Magistrate Court’s web page, Lowndes also has constables.  I do not know if this is an exhaustive list.  Constables may be created by local legislation of a county’s governing authority, and they are appointed by and serve at the pleasure of the chief magistrate of the county. They have the power to execute warrants, summons and returns, etc of the magistrate court. They may only arrest with a warrant or by direction of and in the presence of a judge. Constables are not peace officers under Georgia law (they are in some other states). Constables may be substituted with marshals, which leads us to…


Unlike constables, marshals may be peace officers. The actual function and peace officer status of marshals varies depending on the agency. In some places such as Fulton County, marshals are full-fledged peace officers with the power to enforce traffic laws and make arrest (substitute for constables as described above). Richmond and Muskogee Counties also have marshals which are sworn officers. Please keep in mind that the examples provided are not an exhaustive list. In other places, marshals are code enforcement officers or similar. They can issue citations for code violations and the like, but they do not have arrest powers. Furthermore, both municipalities and counties may appoint and employ marshals.

On Campus

Campus police agencies and their legal authority vary depending upon the type of institution to which they belong. For instance, there are differences between campus agencies of units of the University System of Georgia (USG) versus that of a private college, and the legal authority of school board police agencies differ as well. Campus agencies also tend to vary as to how proactive they are. Agencies on college campuses typically are answerable to the institution’s administration whereas agencies of a school system are typically answerable to the respective school board.

The authorities and definition of a campus and its officers as they relate to educational institutions are found in 20-8-1 O.C.G.A. This applies to both public and private institutions. Campus officers have jurisdiction on the actual property of their institution and 500 yards in any direction from that property. A campus officer may go off campus to investigate a crime that occurred within his or her jurisdiction, and as they are peace officers that fall into the all of “previously excepted” categories I listed above.

Units of the University System of Georgia (USG) may establish police departments that are answerable to the president (or designee) of the respective institution. These agencies have original jurisdiction on any property owned, leased, or under the control of the Board of Regents and 500 yards in any direction (see 20-3-72 O.C.G.A.) from said property. These officers are peace officers. As stated previously, as sworn officers they may enforce traffic law or execute warrants anywhere in the state. If executing a search warrant off campus, they are required by state law to have a local officer present (17-5-21 (d) O.C.G.A.)

Please note that in the above paragraph that the jurisdiction is based on property of the Board of Regents and not the respective institution alone. This means that officers from one USG institution have full jurisdiction on the campus and property belonging to other USG institutions. If you happen to frequent UGA football games, you may have seen officers from other USG institutions working at the games. They have the same legal authority as do the UGA officers on the UGA campus.

Georgia Military College (GMC) is unique in that it is a public college, but it is not part of the University System of Georgia.

The jurisdiction of a campus agency belonging to a private college or university is the same as that of an officer working for a public institution; however, they are limited to the campus of their respective institution (see 20-8-1 O.C.G.A.). Of note in law on private institutions is that in order to extend jurisdiction off campus for 500 yards as do the University System of Georgia institutions, the population of the county in which the institution is located must 400,000 or more residents. It is my opinion that 17-4-23 O.C.G.A. would apply.

Under 20-8-5 O.C.G.A., local boards of education may establish police departments with full police jurisdictions at their facilities and properties.

State of Georgia

The Georgia Department of Public Safety (DPS) is made up of the Georgia State Patrol (GSP), the Capitol Police, and the Motor Carrier Compliance Division (MCCD), which is primarily concerned with commercial vehicle issues. The DPS is headed by a Commissioner appointed by the Governor. The Commissioner carries the rank of Colonel.

The Georgia Bureau of Investigation (GBI) is headed by a Director that is appointed by the Governor. Contrary to what many people think, the GBI does not have blanket original jurisdiction statewide; however, there are a few specific areas such as drugs and fraud where the GBI may exert original jurisdiction. Other than those instances, in order for the GBI to become involved in a local case they must be requested to do so by the head of a law enforcement agency, a prosecutor, or the head of a local governing authority. The GBI investigates all in-custody deaths and has original jurisdiction on state property, and it operates the crime labs.

The Department of Natural Resources (DNR) employs Conservation Rangers (game wardens) as part of the Wildlife Resources Division to enforce wildlife, environmental, boating and other state and federal laws. They are full-fledge certified peace officers with state-wide jurisdiction. The Parks, Recreation, and Historic Sites Division also employees Rangers, but these rangers are may or may not be POST certified peace officers. The Governor appoints members of the Board of Natural Resources which oversees the DNR.

There are a myriad of POST certified officers working for the state; so, I focused primarily on those agencies for which the average citizen is likely to encounter. There are many certified officers/agents that work in administrative capacities in which interaction with the general public is limited. Some examples are investigators that look into food stamp fraud or revenue agents investigating tax issues. Some of the licensing boards, the Secretary of State, the Agriculture Commissioner, and others also have POST certified investigators that investigate issues relating to professional licenses or fraud. There are also numerous state run buildings that have facility police on the grounds. An example of this would be state run mental health hospitals. Furthermore, there are parole officers and probation officers. Trying to a compile a comprehensive list would be daunting.



MARTA police officers are certified and sworn peace officers.  According to Assistant Chief Joseph Dorsey of the MARTA Police, they have county-wide jurisdiction in Fulton and DeKalb Counties including the municipalities contained therein.  They are primarily responsible for police services on rail lines, stations, and buses.


  1. I will be updating this piece soon as a reader has informed me of the existence of several constables operating in various counties across the state, and another reader has requested information on the MARTA Police.

    1. I am a peace officer. I have a Law degree LLB and I am working within the Board of Regents as a police officer. I have an article which is referent to the common misconception of the difference between area of responsibility v jurisdiction. I have submitted the piece to Law Enforcement today and have published it on my LinkedIn site as well. I really enjoyed your article. If you have the time I would equally enjoy you reviewing my article. I appreciate it.

      1. Hi I was wondering if I had an accident out of city limite can I be stopped and charched by a state patrol or was he supposed to call the officer in my jurisdiction?

    2. I just heard a retired police officer argue the need to deputize citizens with concealed carry permits to. The interview was over the increase threat of terrorist attacks, immigration, and Black Lives Matter. Can you explain more about that?

      1. Georgia does not issue “concealed carry permits”. Georgia issues the “Georgia Weapons Carry License” which is required for open or concealed carry.

        In order to have powers of arrest beyond those of citizen’s arrest, a person has be an academy graduate.

  2. Here is the verbage from the MARTA ACT of 1965 as amended in 2006. It details the legal authority that MARTA police have to enforce the law. I have also included links to the page on the Fulton County website where I found copies of the act…..


    The power to contract for, or to provide and maintain, with respect to the
    15 facilities and property owned, leased, operated or under the control of the Authority,
    16 and within the territory thereof, a security force to protect persons and property,
    17 dispense unlawful or dangerous assemblages and assemblages which obstruct full
    18 and free passage, control pedestrian and vehicular traffic, and otherwise preserve
    19 and protect the public peace, health and safety. For these purposes, a member of
    20 such force shall be a peace officer and, as such, shall have authority and immunities
    21 equivalent to those of a peace officer of the municipality or county in which that
    22 person is discharging the duties as a member of such force. Peace officers
    23 employed under this subsection shall be personally liable to one who sustains
    24 special damages as a result of any official act of such officers if done oppressively,
    25 maliciously, corruptly, or without authority of law. The chief of police or chief
    26 executive officer of such force shall be authorized to administer an oath of office to
    MARTA ACT 2006
    – 2 0 –
    1 any individual employed by the Authority as a member of such force who has met
    2 the requirements for certification as a peace officer under the laws of this state.

  3. Walker,

    Mutual Aid Agreements are agreements among agencies to assist each other when needed. They can worked out in advance and formalized through memorandums of understanding, or they can be simply an agency requesting assistance from other agencies.

  4. One situation you might consider is that there are many city agencies and county police departments where all of their officers are also sworn as sheriff’s deputies. Every city police officer in Gwinnett and every county police officer is a sworn sheriffs deputy.
    Also, all Emory university officers are sworn as Dekalb Sheriff deputies and some are sworn in both Fulton and Dekalb
    A lot of the campus departments have all their officers sworn as deputies. This allows them to enforce county ordinances, answer calls outside their 500 yard area, and helps break down the wall between agencies.

    Also Alpharetta and Roswell, which border each other, have all their officers sworn as officers of both cities.

    The entire Florida Highway Patrol criminal interdiction unit were all sworn as agents of the GBI so that they could participate in the multi state task force on I-95. (this was temporary so it may not be the case now)

    1. Matt,

      I did address the issue of mutual-aid agreements in the article.

      Once a peace officer is deputized, they then would be covered under everything that I wrote about Sheriffs and Deputies. Peace officers that are cross-sworn would have whatever jurisdiction that comes from swearing with a subsequent agency. I have been cross-sworn on two occasions; once as a Special Deputy U.S. Marshal. What I was attempting to address was the basic jurisdictional questions. Obviously there are plenty of special situations that exist, but trying to address every possibility would have taken this piece too far afield It’s good to add the additional info to the discussion though.

    2. Just to clarify, Alpharetta and Roswell have some, but certainly not all, of their officers cross-sworn. Same with Alpharetta and the city of Milton; some, but not all.

  5. So what other authorities in Georgia can establish Police Departments? For example the Georgia World Congress Center Authority has a police department… Could, for example, a county hospital authority establish a police department?

    1. As for the Georgia World Congress Center, see 10-9-4 and 10-9-4.1 O.C.G.A. The first code section outlines the broad powers of the GWCC Authority, several of which can be interpreted so as to giving the body the authority to create a police department. The latter specifically mentions a police department.

      Finally, 10-9-15 (d)(1) specifically authorizes the authority to establish a police department.

      As for hospital authorities, typically an authority is established through enabling legislation that creates the authority (entity) and spells out its general powers. A definitive answer here would take additional research; however, initially I would say such questions would determined in the enabling legislation for the authority.

      I do know that several, if not all, of the state mental health facilities have police departments. However, I have never looked into whether or not a local or regional hospital authority may do so.

      1. Regarding a local (non-governmental) Hospital’s legal standing in creating it’s own police department, what other Georgia laws would enable or prohibit this from possibilly occuring? Appreciate your further insight.

  6. Chief Weems,
    I work for Emory University Police. I am a shift supervisor. We started a precinct in Zone 5 in the City of Atlanta. We have a great repoir with APD. Our officers assigned to this precinct deal with all kinds of calls like most agencies. We are deputized in the county of Dekalb. Our Chief is concerned that our deputization in Dekalb does not cover our officers when working in Fulton County. Most of us are under the belief that when an officer is deputized in any county, that it covers him throughout the State of Georgia. We are constantly backing APD outside of the 500 yards and we think the deputization in Dekalb covers our officers when they enforce the law outside the 500 yard property boundaries. Can you shed some light on this issue and if possible provide me with a location I can find documentation on this? It appears that we are unable to get a mutual aid agreement because we are a private police force. If APD will go for it can we get them to swear our officers inside the city.

    1. Jay,

      Deputies have statewide jurisdiction; so, legally you would be covered; however, this does not preclude your agency from implementing a policy that you will only take law enforcement action in which the county where you were sworn.

      I can’t speak for the City of Atlanta, but if they chose to swear in the Emory officers as APD officer, then the Emory officers would have the same authority within the city limits as a city officer does.

      1. Looking for the actual legal cites…ie. O.C.G.A. or case law that explains the jurisdiction and authority of a Georgia Sheriff…and subsequently all deputy sheriff’s. I’m struggling to find specific guidance.

      2. Sheriffs are established by the state constitution and not O.C.G.A.; however, the O.C.G.A. contains roughly 600 references to the Office of Sheriff.

  7. After being turned down by all other law enforcement in Screven Co., I’m seeking information as to wheter or not the State Police would have jurisdiction in a “FINANCIAL EXPLOITATION OF AN ELDER” case.

    1. Carolyn,

      We have numerous state law enforcement agencies, but there is no “State Police”. If you are asking about the GBI taking a case, please see the article reference their original jurisdiction over cases and who can request them to work a case.

  8. Lowndes County currently has 2 constables serving the magistrate court. Their duties are entirely parallel to what you’ve stated above.

  9. Does the term “deputy” only apply to an officer in Sheriff’s office? Would a city police officer ever be called a deputy? It is my understanding that the term deputy indicates a position only found in the Sheriff’s office and not a city’s department.

  10. Very well done! I have not found the Statutory Authority for MARTA’s jurisdiction.Thank you.

  11. Very informative and in depth article on the different Law Enforcement entities in the State of Georgia. Lots of research in bringing this to the forefront. Thanks Chief Weems for a job well done.

  12. Would the GBI Have arrest powers (when working alone ,) over Traffic Laws??

    1. As certified peace officers in the state, they would be covered under 17-4-23.

  13. I went to Ga Tech in the 1980’s and while there I was told that Ga Tech police were Ga State Patrol officers on temporary assignment. Was that correct and if so is that still the case?

    1. There very well may have been GSP Troopers assigned in the area or to assist on campus, but the GTPD and the GSP are two completely separate agencies.

    2. No, it is not true. I am a retired CLEO, but worked at Georgia Tech Police Department as an Officer from 1988 to 1999. They are “State Officers” in they draw their power be virtue of State law, but not GSP.

      As stated here, there are MANY state law enforcement agencies here in Georgia, Board of Regents Police are one, Georgia State Patrol is another.

  14. I witnessed a Gwinnett County Schools Police pull a driver over for speeding.
    Does the Gwinnett County Schools police have such authority to issue citations for traffic violations such as speeding ?

    1. Yes. Please refer to the second paragraph in the article where it says that any officer may enforce traffic law anywhere in the state.

    1. No. POST has exclusive authority over certifications. It should be noted that a termination or a resignation in lieu of termination automatically triggers a POST investigation which may result in a probation, suspension, or revocation of certification.

  15. In June 2013 , I got a 10 day notice from the City of Doraville (DeKalb County) about
    my Security Car. It is inoperable. It is on our business property just for show ( to
    deter crimes ). Lucky for us, our property is in 2 counties. After the notice, we
    pushed the car to the other county side (Gwinnett County) on our property. 10 days later, I
    got a citation for ” INOPERABLE VECHICLE” from City of Doraville (DeKalb
    County) . I don’t think they know it was on Gwinnett County side. How can I fight this in court?

  16. Chief Weems:

    I just wanted to make a comment about your statement in regards to warrants: You said:

    “Arrest warrants are typically addressed to “any peace officer” and can be executed by any peace officer within the state regardless of whether or not they are in their jurisdiction. Peace officer is the proper term that applies to all officers certified and employed under Title 35 Chapter 8 of Georgia law.”

    However, many believe that this means that a municipal officer (as a peace officer) can serve warrants outside his/her jurisdiction. I believe that this is not true. Here is why:

    O.C.G.A. 17-4-24 states: Every law enforcement officer is bound to execute the penal warrants given to him to execute.

    The authority to cross county lines to execute warrants is granted, however only to officers who derive their arrest powers from the state law. It does not extend to city police officers whose authority to arrest is found in the Municipal Charter. Thus, a city police officer has no legal authority to go beyond the geographical limits of the municipality of which he or she is an officer to serve a warrant. It has been held, however, that a state officer may call city police officers as a posse and may deputize them to help serve a warrant beyond the limits of their city.

    1. William,

      Thank you for your comment. I know of one case where a Probation Officer saw someone he knew had active warrants and arrested same. The defendant challenged the arrest, but the Probation Officer was also sworn as a Deputy Sheriff and thus rendered the question moot.

      This is an area where I would like to spend some time researching the case law.

    2. I’m confused William, where did you see that municipal officers get their powers from the city? Georgia Post / State of Georgia gives them their authority. In order to act as a LEO you must be ” POST certified, in good standings, and employed with a LEO agency”. 17-4-25 gives them the authority to serve warrants outside their jurisdiction.

      Also Don’t forget, anyone can make an arrest outside their jurisdiction as long as they witnessed the crime occur or have direct knowledge 17-4-60. You can police outside your jurisdiction, but you can write traffic tickets and make arrests 17-4-25, 17-4-60, 17-4-23.

  17. I work for a campus agency, and we have supervisors that slap you on the wrist if you pull a vehicle over outside of the Campus Grounds. However, on 3 separate occasions, i had to affect a traffic stop along an interstate and Highway (while traveling to one of our other campuses) because 1 person appeared DUI less safe by “Failing to maintain lane” And almost slamming into me while I attempted to pass, in which he then merged from lane 1 all the way into lane 4 almost striking the shoulders guard rail; then from there traveling back from lane 4 into lane 1 forcing me into the median lane almost causing me to hit the Median wall. Now this put my life and the life of others on the Highway in jeopardy. (Called in to Roswell PD and informed them of the situation, which they sent their officers to handle after I pulled him over in a safe location.

    Another incident, 1 vehicle while changing lanes from lane 1 into lane 2 nearly clipped my front end which forced me to slam on brakes nearly getting me rear ended by another vehicle. Now, both incidents I described to you, I was told that, by my LIEUTENANT, that I was not authorized to initiate emergency equipment nor pull the vehicle over and that I let my “EGO” get in the way.

    Now I know you described to us O.C.G.A 17-4-23, However, If I am not citing this person and I am conducting a well being check to make sure everything is ok with that person, am I COVERED.
    I know the rule is, if your not going to cite, then why pull over,

    1. 1) As long as the violation occurred within your jurisdiction, you can stop the violator where ever you want to.

      2) Your LT needs some legal updates apparently.

      3) Citing the driver is not the main purpose of the stop.

      4) Most importantly, know what YOUR policy manual states. If it is base on the GACP or CALEA model, the actions you describe would be supported my this policy.

  18. I work for a federal agency in the Atlanta metro area. I am in the process of drafting MOU’s to deputize my LEO’s with several (approximately seven) agencies in which we have concurrent jurisdiction and work very closeley with. In the draft it must have the following phrase…..

    “WHEREAS, the City of XXX maintains an agency for law enforcement, hereafter known as XXX Police Department. The XXX Police Department has been granted the authority by (state law giving authority here) to appoint (deputize) XXX law enforcement commissioned personnel to act as deputies for the XXX Police Department”

    Is there an OCGA or other Georgia law that gives state, county and municipal law enforcement agencies authority to conduct law enforcement operations?

    Any assistance would be MUCH appreciated.

    Thank you

    1. First, and this is picking knits, police departments can’t deputize. Only the Sheriff can deputize. A city police department could swear you in as an officer in their department.

      I think the major hurdle that you will have is certification as peace officers through GA POST, and I suggest getting the answer to that question prior to moving forward. POST may not recognize your federal certifications. Other than that it is simply the choice of the respective agencies as to whether or not to participate.

      1. Gotcha, I just located 35-9-15. I spoke with a contact with the U.S. Forest Service on the Chattahoochee-Oconee NF. They are all appointed as state officers through each S.O. up there under the authority of this code section. Looks like it was written in 2010 so it’s fairly new.

  19. I am a Director of Safety and Security at a private college (not part of the USG, but are SACS accredited) and have been attempting to locate a viable definition of school security personnel. O.C.G.A. 20-8-5 affords school security personnel that are POST certified law enforcement powers. I am GA POST certified but my IHE does not have a campus police department. Can you explain this code section a little better? I have attempted to get an explanation on this code section but no one seems to know. During a recent incident with a suspicious person on campus it took at least 20 minutes to get law enforcement on the scene, and they responded to the college from the nearest city ten minutes away in another county. Please help if you can!

    1. 20-8-5 deals with security at public schools (k-12). The relevant code section is 20-8-1.

  20. I had an argument with an individual at a Starbucks near GGC ( Georgia Gwinnett College) with someone and a GGC campus police officer came up to me telling me I was disturbing the peace and that if I continued he would arrest me. I told him that he had no jurisdiction as the GGC campus was around 3 miles away. He showed his papers which stated that campus police are part of the Sheriff’s office and that he does have jurisdiction. Is that correct?

    1. If the GGC officers have been sworn in by the Gwinnett County Sheriff, then yes, it would be accurate. I don’t have any specific knowledge as to whether or not all of the GGC officers have been, but I do know that the Gwinnett County Sheriff does regularly swear in the officers from the municipal PDs in the county and issues them IDs.

  21. Informative… I was instructed by an instructor at GPSTC in an IA class that all officers, sheriff’s deputies included, receive their arrest powers from the state, not a sheriff??? … therefore, county police officers (as long as they are employed by an agency and certification is current), witnessing a crime or traffic violation outside their jurisdiction may make the arrest or cite the violator as long as the suspect is turned over to the local jurisdiction and or the traffic summons is sent to the local jurisdiction (17-4-20).

    It is without question that outside your jurisdiction you may serve arrest warrants without being “deputized” (17-4-25). I guess my question to you is, why do you need to be deputized by a sheriff when the state gives you your arrest powers? I have searched the entire O.C.G.A. and found nothing that says Sheriff’s have the authority to give arrest powers to anyone.

  22. Joe,
    Sheriff’s do not get their authority from O.C.G.A. A sheriff is empowered by the state constituition. Same as the governor.

  23. Thank you for writing this so as to be understood by everyone. Good job and I was pleasantly surprised to find my answers on these questions.

  24. Regarding county police depts. you stated, “It should be noted that all of the county police agencies currently in existence were created prior to the requirement of the issue being put before the voters.”

    Have there ever been any ballot initiatives to dissolve an existing county PD and incorporate it into the county sheriff’s office? Is this even possible at this point since the county PDs seem well entrenched?

    1. I am not aware of any ballot initiatives to dissolve those in existence, and I am not certain if there is a process for getting such a measure on the ballot. There have been efforts to create them that have failed, and there have been some that just faded away.

  25. Concerning the post about federal agencies, I am a former FBI Special Agent. Since Georgia P.O.S.T. did not recognize my federal training or certifications, I had to obtain Georgia peace officer certification before being hired by a municpal police department. I enjoyed the process, however, the point is that federal certifications do not necessarily transfer to Georgia P.O.S.T. certification. I will also say that when I was a Special Agent in another state–that state did not recognize federal agents as peace officers for the purpose of certification.

  26. We got it figured out. New GA law was passed in 2010.

    OCGA 35-9-15 states…On request of the sheriff or the chief or director of a law enforcement agency of this state or of any political subdivision thereof, and with the consent of the employee concerned, a law enforcement officer of the United States or any of the several states may be appointed as a law enforcement officer of this state for the purpose of providing mutual assistance in the enforcement of the laws of this state or of the United States. A law enforcement officer who is appointed pursuant to this Code section shall be considered a law enforcement officer of the appointing agency and shall have the same powers, duties, privileges, and immunities as a law enforcement officer employed by the appointing agency….and so on.

  27. My question may have already been answered. Can a City (Cartersville GA) set up a speed trap on interstate I-75 and issue citations for speeding?

    1. Russell, it is perfectly legal for a city to operate speed detection on an interstate highway as long as it is on their speed permit.

  28. Thaks Chief,
    My wife got a ticket there and I was wondering if that was okay for them to do.
    How would I be able to find out if it is on their speed permit?

    1. Russell,

      You can obtain the permit by filing an open records request for it with the city open records officer.

  29. I Just have a big question????
    Can a FBI agent write a speeding ticket ?? ( I have a friend that works for the “FBI ” he usually goes out of town to work, like Alabama, Florida, Indiana etc.. He said he goes on missions like rescuing kidnapped children or to investigate some cases, he usually works at night, and he also said that he patrols streets and writes tickets ….) is that true or he just messing with me !!!?

    1. I am CURRENTLY an FBI Agent, and NO, WE DO NOT WRITE SPEEDING TICKETS, or enforce any traffic laws. Also, everything you are hearing from this “friend” sounds highly suspicious to me, and I’ve been with the FBI for over 23 years. You can call the Atlanta office of the FBI at 404-679-9000 and ask for verification of this person’s employment with the FBI. I’ve had many people do that, concerning me, when I go to interview them while investigating a case. If this “friend” starts beating around the bush and giving you excuses about “working undercover” or anything other than the main FBI phone number (which I’ve already given you), that is another red flag.

      Also, we would love to know if there is someone posing as and FBI Agent.

      1. Interesting Mark, as a sworn LEO in Georgia since 1986 I once called FBI Atlanta to speak to them about public corruption that was at the time, outside of my jurisdiction. The agent that answered the phone was very vague and when I asked his name told me that he would not give it to me, because of “increased security due to terrorism. I told him that in my opinion this was absurd, we do not have “Secret Police” in America and he was working a desk, not working undercover. I never called again and retired as a CLEO.

  30. Hello, Mr. J. Lee Weems.
    I’m Lexi and i’m 17 i have a question, I recently recieved my drivers license in the state of Ga. I was in Down Town Atlanta there was a Dekalb County Police Officer leaving from the court house he pulled me over and asked for my License I asked him why and he said because my break light was out which i did not know at the time but I told him no because he isn’t an Atlanta Police officer and he said regardless he can pull me over if he wants to. We went back and forth and he eventually just said “i’m going to let you off with a warning, get your lights fixed”.

    So my question is him being another police officer from an entirely different City can he pull me over in my city and issue me a ticket? For whatever reason he was at the court house was one thing but he was heading back to his city of decatur so in between I dont believe his commute from one city to the next I dont believe he has the jurisdiction to pull people over in a whole different city. It’s not like i started from decatur and he followed me and pulled me over in Atlanta.. He was already in Atlanta and pulled me over in Atlanta i think he was mad about something in court and tried to bully me!

    1. The answer to your question is addressed in the article. Any officer can enforce traffic law anywhere in the state.

  31. Chief Weems,

    Frank Rotundo is wrong about county police jurisdiction within the county municipalities. They only need a service agreement to enforce a particular city’s ordinances or a city ordinance passed by the city county granting the county police authority to enforce city ordinances. See the the state statute below:

    2010 Georgia Code
    § 36-8-5 – Powers of county police generally

    O.C.G.A. 36-8-5 (2010)
    36-8-5. Powers of county police generally

    Under the direction and control of the county governing authority, the county police shall have:

    (1) The same power to make arrests and to execute and return criminal warrants and processes in the county of their election or appointment only, as sheriffs have; and

    (2) All the powers of sheriffs as peace officers in the county of their election or appointment.

  32. Chief Weems,

    You are correct to continue to count Chatham County Police Department as one of the 12 county police departments in the State of Georgia. The Chatham County Police Department nor the Savannah Police Department were ever dissolved. See the below listed excerpt from the Intergovernmental Agreement for the Savannah-Chatham County Metropolitan Police Department (MPD):

    Section I, paragraph C, page 4:

    C. County-Wide Jurisdiction of Officers of MPD and Enforcement of City Ordinances. All Savannah Police Officers and new recruits of MPD will be sworn in by the County as County Police Officers and then assigned to MPD. These officers will have the same county-wide powers and authority as held and retained by officers of the Chatham County Police Department on the date of execution of this Agreement. All County Police Officers and new recruits of MPD will be sworn in by the City as City Police Officers and then assigned to MPD. MPD officers will have authority to enforce County and City ordinances.

  33. Live in Gordon County Ga. In 2009 our ordinance officer was placed under the sheriff along with a signed document stating he would do only ordinance. After that the sheriff, on his own changed the job description to a deputy sheriff. We get no ordinance compliance. Have dpoken to, emailed, etc. The comissioners. We’re ignored. June 2 going to open budget meeting. Will ask to cut sheriff’s budget in amount to pay a full time ordinance officer restablished under county admin. I’ve been told they won’t budge. Do you know of any laws, etc. I can use for leverage?

    1. The Sheriff is a constitutional officer and is not under the supervision of the governing authority. The commissioners do not have the authority to direct the Sheriff to take or not take actions. If there is something you want the Sheriff to do, you need to take that up with the Sheriff.

      If the situation is as you described, the Sheriff was within his lawful authority to do what he did with the position.

      If the commissioners choose not to act on a code enforcement position, I know of no law that would force them do so. You could turn to a political solution and run for the board on a platform of code enforcement.

  34. Chief, thanks for your post. What is the authority of non-sworn personnel of a city or county to issue citations, such as parking citations? In this regard, can a city counsel simply authorize a parking management vendor to issue citations even if the personnel of the vendor are not code enforcement agents authorized by the police chief?

    1. Local ordinances may be enforced by non-sworn people if the local government gives them the authority to do so. In fact, this is often the case with such things such as building codes, parking, etc.

  35. Can a Sheriff , deputies & County be sued for a Cival Rights Violations by a citizen or not?

    1. Anyone can be sued for civil rights violations. Private citizens can violate a person’s civil rights. The government doesn’t have a monopoly on that. Such suits must be brought in federal court.

      1. Chief Weems,

        I believe there may be some confusion regarding federal causes of actions for violating civil rights. The acts of an individual who is acting as a private citizen cannot be used as the basis for suing under 42 U.S.C. Section 1983 (the section of the code under which most civil rights suits for deprivations of Constitutional rights are brought), because Section 1983 is limited to wrongful acts or omissions perpetrated under color of law/governmental authority. For private parties to be liable for civil rights violations, it is necessary to prove that they conspired (i.e. two or more parties involved) to do so (42 U.S.C. Section 1985).

        A store security guard nor his/her employer could be held is a Georgia court liable for false arrest if the guard lacked probable cause AND acted with malice, but not in a federal court for violating the civil rights of the person detained. On the other hand, were two or more people to conspire to hold some voters captive, until after the polls close, that would be actionable in federal court, even if the conspirators claimed no official status.

      2. Private citizens most certainly can violate a persons civil rights. Remember the Ku Klux Klan? A bunch of private citizens preventing a person from voting certainly meets the definition of a conspiracy to violate a person’s civil rights under federal law. Ever wonder why the Federal Civil Rights Act of 1871 was referred to as the Ku Klux Klan Act?

      3. The Klan is the prime example of a conspiracy, which, as I pointed out above, can form the basis for a suit under42 USC 1985. To sue under that code section, there is no requirement that the defendants acted under color of law. Under 22 USC 1983, on the other hand, the defendant must have acted under color of law, but there is no requirement that he or she conspired with others. That’s why an individual police officer or deputy sheriff may be sued for a federal civil rights violation, while a lone security guard or lone bigot cannot be.

        You are correct in tracing both modern code sections back to the the Civil Rights Acts of 1871 (a/k/a the Klan Act), but keep in mind that those three Reconstruction era acts were mostly criminal in nature, and even provided for martial law and suspension of writs of habeas corpus, and were intended to empower the feds to arrest and prosecute for what previously would have been considered state offenses. Those laws weren’t successfully used as a basis for private law suits until almost a century later.

        In short, if you wish to trample on someone’s civil rights, without the risk of being sued in federal court, do it on your own, on your own tim, in your own state, and without asserting any legal authority to mess with whomever you are messing with.

      4. Chief,

        State courts have concurrent jurisdiction to enforce most civil rights provisions. It is common to bring civil rights cases in federal court, but they need not be. I have brought civil rights cases in several of Georgia’s superior courts.


  36. Ok Chief, I am confused. At the first of this article you stated, ‘Traffic law may be enforced anywhere in the state by ANY officer. The alleged offense must be prosecuted in the jurisdiction in which it occurred’. I took this to mean any Georgia cities local-city police, Marta, all county sheriffs deputies, all country police, State troupers & all DNR Rangers. In others words ANY/ALL POST certified officers within the state can issue a traffic ticket? Example: A city of Snellville, Ga officer training/taking a course at the FLETC in Glynco, Ga. can initiate a traffic stop & write a citation there?

    Thanks in advance

  37. Sorry Chief. I forgot to add the last part of my confusion.

    Ok Chief, I am confused. At the first of this article you stated, ‘Traffic law may be enforced anywhere in the state by ANY officer. The alleged offense must be prosecuted in the jurisdiction in which it occurred’. I took this to mean any Georgia cities local-city police, Marta, all county sheriffs deputies, all country police, State troupers & all DNR Rangers. In others words ANY/ALL POST certified officers within the state can issue a traffic ticket?

    However you later state: ‘Cities may establish their own police departments. The officers that work for such agencies ONLY have jurisdiction within the limits of their respective municipality’.

    Example: A city of Snellville, Ga officer training/taking a course at the FLETC in Glynco, Ga. can initiate a traffic stop & write a citation there. Is that correct???

    1. Per statute and case law, any officer can enforce traffic law anywhere in the state. If a city police officer from Dalton witnesses a traffic violation in Waycross, the Dalton officer could make the stop and issue the citation, but the case must be prosecuted in Waycross.

  38. Very helpful and informative article.

    A question though: Where does the budget for the Sheriff’s Office come from? Is it provided by the state or subject to county government?

  39. This web site / Forum discussion has been very helpful to me and my career.
    I stay tuned for everything.
    I curently still work at a Campus and we are soon to be taken over by another agency.

    My concern is, can you haev 2 seperate budgets under 1 department that is iCALEA certified.
    alot of the officers at my agency wants to know, if their pay will be incresing on the day that we get absorved.

    1. sorry if i posted this in the wrong area, but its kind of touching on the same basis of Jurisdiction, just not the legal / citation aspect.

      We believe that they have to bring us up to thier pay scale, but some are saying that they don’t have to and we should be fortunate that we are still employed.

    2. Thank you for the kind words. The pay scale question will depend upon the human resource policy and procedures of the respective governments and any contractual agreements.

  40. This is a very useful article which addresses many questions I have had. Since you wrote this, an interesting arrangement has been set up in Bibb County. When Macon and Bibb County merged, they decided to allow the sheriff to take over all police services inside the former city limits, rather than creating a county-wide police agency. This arrangement is in contrast to the arrangement here in Athens-Clarke County with a county police agency (which actually involves a history of a county police agency put in place before the merger, as I understand, though I may be wrong).

  41. Very nicely done! You did not get into some of the additional issues concerning campus police outside the University System of Georgia (and, among public institutions, I believe you now could add all the technical colleges, since they are under a different governing board, and therefore would fall under 20-8-1 through 20-8-3), but I understand and agree that providing too much can convey less.

    I also enjoyed reading your observations and explanations in regard to training, police-citizen contacts, etc.; I am always heartened to discover yet another LEO or former LEO who “gets it,” which is an all too rare occurrence. Here in Georgia, I’ve been a police legal advisor, a juvenile investigator, a defense attorney, a magistrate, a police chief, and, like you, an adjunct instructor at academies and in the CJ program at a college or university. However, during the early part of “back in my youth,” I worked for a semi-rural (farms, foothills, and mountains, but also some well-populated bedroom communities) in California, and, I am sad to say, that department, back in the 1970s through early 1980s, in many ways was more advanced, and had higher standards, than almost any department in Georgia has today. And, it hurts to say that, because I’ve never been a big fan of much of what goes on on the Left Coast.

    Be all that as it may, I have resolved to seize hope and take comfort whenever the opportunity presents itself. Your blog has given me my most recent fix, and follows only by a couple of days a chance encounter with an extremely enlightened veteran police officer from Newnan. Toss in an aging sergeant from Emory, whom you may have encountered at GALEFI or elsewhere, and I am able to delude myself into thinking the light at the end of the tunnel may not be an oncoming freight train.

  42. When you refer to enforcement of traffic laws you don’t clarify the use of radar speed detection devices. To the best of my knowledge an agency only has jurisdiction to operate these devices within the limitations of the license issued to their respective department. Such as a municipal department in Pembroke Georgia couldn’t run radar on the interstate in Laurens County. I’m not positive if I’m correct or not. Thanks for your assistance.

    1. I addressed the speed permit restrictions in another article here: Notes of Speed Detection.

  43. Thank you, again, for the work you have put into putting all this together, and for your willingness to share it.

    I read about your having twice been sworn as a “special” deputy U.S. Marshal, and, knowing the feds, I am sure their must be either case law or a section or two of the U.S.C. that define the term and/or establish parameters. But, what about “special deputy sheriffs,” in Georgia? I know there actually is one county in which the term has specific meaning, defined by a State statute…something to do with tax collections. Other than that, there seems to be no standard definition, and, back in the 1970’s, an Attorney General’s opinion stated that imposing any limitations at all would mean that the deputy in question was not a “true deputy.”

    I know that decades ago, the term was sometimes used when a Sheriff would appoint “special deputies” who then operated as unlicensed private security or private detectives, before the relevant State board took actions to end the practice. I also recall it having been used in an attempt to authorize certain non-peace officers (e.g. certain juvenile court employees, Public Defender investigators, etc.) to carry firearms, at least back in the days before carry laws were liberalized. Nowadays, though, the practice seems mostly confined to conferring special deputy status on certified peace officers employed by municipalities or educational institutions, to cover situations in which performance of their regular duties may take them beyond the city limits or their campus-plus-500 yards, or whatever.

    To my knowledge, the full implications of designating local or campus police as “special deputies,” with a limitation that their authority as deputies shall apply only when they are engaged in regular duties, extra-territorially, has ever been tested in the courts. Can you offer anything on that score? Do you know if the common practice is to state such limitations in writing, as opposed to relying on informal understandings…backed by the implied or explicit threat of revocation?

    Anything and everything you can share will be appreciated.

    1. Ed,

      While I have been involved in a few protective details to a minor degree, I have only actually been sworn as a Special Deputy U.S. Marshal once.

      I have not researched any case law involving special deputies or special police in Georgia, but Title 35 Chapter 9 of the O.C.G.A. contains the statutory information on such positions.

  44. I agree with your analysis of Zilke vs. State. When I read the opinion, I believe deputies/officers who encounter traffic offenses outside their city/county they could still stop, cite or turn over to local LE and it would be valid. I’m sure if you ask 10 different prosecutors you will get 10 different answers.

    1. Police officers, yes, but Deputies are a different animals from police officers.

  45. Chief,

    I’ve been discussing arrest authorities of Deputies/Police with several co-workers. I’ve read where you state that Sheriff’s get their authority from the State Constitution and have state wide arrest powers because of it.

    So, I read all 84 pages of the Georgia Constitution & can’t find anywhere where it says Sheriff’s have authority outside their County. Maybe I missed it & you can point me to another source…? I do know that under OCGA 17-4-20, all Peace Officers in the state may arrest when it is committed within their immediate presence.

    While reading the Constitution, I found something that seems to conflict with a statement from your blog. You write,

    “Whether or not a contract is in place, the Sheriff still has full jurisdiction within municipalities in his/her county.”

    This caught my attention because I had just read about this in the Constitution. Article IX, Section II, Paragraph III (b) says…

    b) Unless otherwise provided by law,

    (1) No county may exercise any of the powers listed in subparagraph (a) of this Paragraph or provide any service listed therein inside the boundaries of any municipality or any other county except by contract with the municipality or county affected; and

    (2) No municipality may exercise any of the powers listed in subparagraph (a) of this Paragraph or provide any service listed therein outside its own boundaries except by contract with the county or municipality affected.

    By the way, section (a) starts off with providing “Police/Fire” services. So, from what I’m gathering is that unless there is a contract with a municipality, the Sheriff cannot provide police services within the municipality.

    Which seems to go against everything I’ve ever known or been told. Any info you could provide would be great!


    1. The county and the Sheriff are separate legal entities. The county does not operate the Sheriff’s Office; the Sheriff does. This distinction has been made in numerous GA Supreme Court cases. “County” means the governing authority. It does not mean the Sheriff. Furthermore, there is a code section that specifies that the Sheriff has the same authority within municipalities that he/he has in unincorporated areas of the county.

      As far as the statewide authority of the Sheriff, the state constitution creates the office of Sheriff and gives the office all of the powers and duties provided by general law. The state supreme court has ruled that the office of Sheriff came to America with all of its common law powers and duties. So, to answer your question with a question (I’m playing Socrates), what were and are the common law powers and duties of the Sheriff, and can you point to a case where a Sheriff or Deputy Sheriff made an arrest to have it thrown out over geographical jurisdictional issues?

  46. Mr. Weems:

    Do you know if a Sheriff in Georgia is authorized to run a probation office? Does he have the authority?

    1. There is state law concerning the Sheriff operating probation, but I am not up to speed on all of the requirements.

      1. Probation is one of those “neither fish nor fowl” sort of things…or maybe it would be more accurate to say it is both. Almost half of U.S. states treat it as part of the judicial branch, almost half treat it as art of the executive branch, and the rest are mixed…either leaving it to indiviual counties or dividing it on the basis of level of offense, or whatever. Georgia is VERY mixed, with probation being under the Sheriff in some counties (e.g. Early), under the courts in others. From what I can tell, it’s treated as an executive office for purposes of the Open Records Act, even if it is part of the local court system. And, of course, it’s often handled by a private company that contracts with a county board of commissioners, and I have no clue what THAT makes it.

  47. Absent an agreement with the Sheriff or other law enforcement official with territorial jurisdiction, what, if any, law enforcement authority does a D.A.’s investigator have? The home pages of a few Georgia District Attorneys’ offices claim that their investigators have full law enforcement powers, but that seems inconsistent with 15-18-14.1, pertaining to such investigator, and which reads, in relevant part:

    (c) No person appointed pursuant to this Code section shall exercise any of the powers or authority which are by law vested in the office of sheriff or any other peace officer, including the power of arrest, except as may be authorized by law…”

    Elsewhere, the Code requires that if a D.A.’s investigator is authorized to carry a firearm, he or she must meet the requirements of Chapter 8 of Title 35, i.e. obtain certification. I am wondering if some district attorneys, like, until recently, our Court of Appeals (until the Supreme Court reversed) assumed that certification somehow confers law enforcement powers, as opposed to certification being a prerequisite for the exercise of law enforcement powers conferred by virtue of the nature of the person’s employment and the status of the agency employing them.

    Any thoughts? Know of any case law?

    1. This isn’t actually a reply to my own question re D.A.’s investigators; it’s an update.

      P.O.S.T. agrees there is an apparent contradiction and/or major ambiguity. The Prosecuting Attorney’s Council, which is vested with allocating how many State-funded investigators each D.A. will have, has yet to respond to my e-mailed query, though it’s now been almost two weeks, and they strive to reply the day after e-mails are received. I take that to mean that they do not have a ready answer.

      Until I hear otherwise, from someone who can cite a Code section, an provision in the State Constitution, an appellate or A.G.’s opinion, or some sound reasoning, I am going to proceed n the assumption that D.A.’s and their investigators only ASSUME the investigators have law enforcement authority, but may have none.

    2. This is another update, not a reply. According the the Prosecuting Attorney’s Council, the law enforcement authority of DAs’ or SGs’ investigators is dependent on deputization, which could, in the case of the DA of a multi-county circuit, necessitate an investigator being deputized by multiple sheriffs.

      1. Ed
        If a DA/Solicitor Investigator in a multi county circuit is deputized in one county, then I believe he would have authority state wide just as a full time Deputy would.
        I will ask Chuck Spahos who is over PAC.

  48. Thanks. I wondered about that, too. Probably a good idea, in terms of politics and comity, i.e. showing equal deference to all sheriffs in the circuit. I can imagine feathers being ruffled if an investigator deputized only by the Sheriff of County A were to be using that authority to apply in County B for search or arrest warrants pertaining only to crimes in the latter county, Legal authority is one thing; treading on turf is another.

    Want to bet on whether all D.A. and S.G. investigators who’ve been told they have law enforcement powers have been deputized by a sheriff? I’ve been finding that a lot of people with i.d. cards or certificates that say have me the requirements for certification as peace officers believe that means they ARE peace officers and/or that they a full range of law enforcement powers, whether or not there’s any statutory basis.

    Then there’s the issue of sheriff’s who, when deputizing police officers, investigators, etc., specify that they are “special deputies,” who are authorized to act as deputy sheriffs only when carrying out their official duties as officers of the agencies that actually employ them. For one thing, they only need their authority of deputies when they are going BEYOND the scope of what they are authorized to do in their capacities as police officers, campus police officers, investigators, or whatever; and 2) the Attorney General has opined that anything less than the authority of a “true deputy” may mean NO authority as a a deputy.

    Again, thanks!

  49. Todd,

    I just heard back from the chief investigator of one of the district attorney’s offices that, on its website, states it investigators have vested with law enforcement powers, including the power of arrest. What the reply e-mail stated is that my question was being forwarded to the PSC…to the same person who already has informed me that the investigators must be deputized, if they are to have any such powers. That suggests to me that the chief investigator of a large DA’s office didn’t realize that the investigators had no inherent authority, even if P.O.S.T. certified.

    Recently, a private college proved unable to provide any documentation that anyone in authority (board of trustees or even a president of the college) ever had authorized its campus police officers to exercise law enforcement powers (required by 20-8-2 in ADDITION to the officers being certified), and then there are the stories about marshals who’ve been told they have full law enforcement authority, only to find out that they don’t.

    What kind of show are we running, here in Georgia? Even our appellate courts have a difficult time sorting it all out.

  50. Ed
    I agree. It’s not like private campus police, DA investigators, city/county marshals are new. They have been around for a long time and our legislature should have these loose ends tied to ensure that the proper agencies and their officers have the proper authority. I agree just being POST certified does not in itself give someone law enforcement powers. They also have to be sworn by appropriate Chief/Sheriff, Mayor, Council etc. to have law enforcement authoritiy. I remember when I started 25 years ago, a Deputy/Police Officer had full arrest powers for up to one year before they had to be POST certified. Now you have to be certified before you have that authority.

    1. Unless your a University System of Georgia campus police officer, in which case you can arrest without ever being certified…you just can’t do much of anything else. And, for a mayor or city council or whatever to be able to vest law enforcement powers, there has to be statutory o Constitutional authority, otherwise counties would still be able to create a police department without going to the voters. And, if they are private campus police, they not only aren’t sworn, the Code also states they have NO duty to exercise any powers they have. And, if you read 17-5-21 (d) literally, the only place an Emory, Agnes Scott, Berry College, etc. campus police officer, or even a campus police officer from a public technical college, or whatever, can serve a search warrant without a local officer being present is on or within five hundred yards of a University System of Georgia campus. Take it literally enough, and they may not even be able to execute a search warrant on their OWN campuses. It is a mess!

      1. Ed, Your statement about University System of Georgia police being able to arrest without not ever being certified is wrong. The code section that establishes them specifically states they must be certified according to Title 35.

  51. I hope you are right about that, chief, because, if I’m correct, it’s a ridiculous exception to the normal rule. I was basing my comment on 20-3-72, which states that both campus police officers and security officers of the University System are empowered to arrest on campus or within 500 yards, 20-8-4, which says that the provisions of Chapter 8 of Title 20 (which, in 20-8-2, require both P.O.S.T. certification and the authorization by the governing body of the school) do not apply to the arrest powers of University System officers, and the following language in Harber vs. State, 198 Ga. App. 170, 1990, a UGA search warrant case, whether the Court of Appeals distinguished between the arrest powers granted by 20-3-72 and other law enforcement powers, for which certification is required:

    “Although campus policemen of the university system are exempt from any requirement of certification, there is nothing in the statute which prohibits them from seeking and obtaining such certification. See OCGA 20-8-4.”

    The Court’s majority argued that, if the campus officers in question were certified, that made them “officers of this state” for purpose of obtaining and serving search warrants, which just being University System campus police officers, without being certified, would not allow them to do. Earlier in the opinion, the majority addressed the arrest powers in 20-3-72, saying:

    “By its terms, OCGA 20-3-72 relates only to the territorial authority of campus police officers to make an arrest. In this regard, campus police officers are essentially no different from county and municipal police officers whose authority to make an arrest may otherwise be subject to similar territorial restrictions. See generally OCGA 36-8-5; 40-13-30. However, it is not the territorial authority of campus police officers to make an arrest that is in question. The issue is the territorial authority of campus police officers to obtain and execute a search warrant. Nothing in OCGA 20-3-72 purports to address this issue.”

    If there’s a section of Title 20, chapter 3 that requires University System officer to be certified prior to having arrest powers, I’m not familiar with it, but a admit to not having looked, and was relying on the code section and case cited above. I know that, in general, you know a lot more about such things than I do, or just about anyone else. But, are you possibly confusing Title 20, Chapter 3 officers (University System of Georgia) with Title 20, Chapter 8 officers (all other college leve campus police)? It’s easy to do (I know, because I got the two confused, back before I went into campus law enforcement), and the Legislature has sometimes used the term “campus police,” as if it intended a Code section to apply to both, when, from the context and legislative history, it was only thinking about one of them, at the time. Clearly, they weren’t thinking about private campus, Georgia technical college, or Georgia Military College (if they have campus police) when they drafted subsection (d) of 17-5-21.

    Like I say, if you can show me where I’m wrong, I’ll be relieved, and will thank you. Either way, thank you for trying to keep me honest.

      1. Yep. 20-8-3 applies to “Chapter 8” campus cops- those employed by private institutions and public institutions not under the Board of Regents/University System of Georgia. UGA, GSU, Ga. Tech,, etc. officers are “Chapter 3” officers, and the rules are different. 20–8-4 makes clear that 20-8-2 and 20-8-3 do not apply to University System campus police officers.

        Like I said, it’s an easy mistake to make, and even (especially?) the Legislature doesn’t always get it right.

  52. Chief Weems,

    In regard to county marshals, as best I can tell there are three groups. Those who were officers of county courts (at least one of which was called “The Municipal Court,” even though it was a county court, and not the court of a city) that became “State Courts” when that state-wide category was created in 1970, marshals offices that were created and vested with powers by county commissions prior to 1992, i.e. back in the days when county commissions could create police departments without specific voter approval, and any marshals offices created after the 1992 law pertaining to county police.

    Is that your understanding? I’m relying in large part on the Georgia Supreme Court opinion in the law suit between former Fayette County Sheriff Randall Johnson and Fayette County, in which the County argued that, when the Commission created the Marshal’s Office in 1989, and vested the Marshal and his deputies with full law enforcement powers, what it actually had done was create a county police department under a different name, and had directed it to make enforcement of ordinances its priority, without actually prohibiting it from engaging in other law enforcement activities. In response, Sheriff Johnson’s attorneys argued that the marshals had not functioned as a police department, and that any DUI arrests, etc. began after 1992, and thus the vote of the citizenry was required before the office could function as a county police department.

    From what I’ve heard, some of the newly formed cities now are getting into the act, by creating marshals offices, purporting to vest lhe marshals with law enforcement powers, and then expecting P.O.S.T. to recognize those marshals’ offices as law enforcement units. Absent a special statute, a provision in the municipal charter, or whatever, do you know of any way a city can created a new law enforcement agency, if it already has a police department?

    It’s gotten to a point where county commissions, mayors, city councils, elected prosecutors, and, I suspect, even many judges operate on the assumption that that any level of government can make anyone a peace officer, as long as P.O.S.T. will certify them. Do you agree: 1) that seems to be what many people in Georgia governments believe; and 2) they are wrong about Georgia law in that regard?

    Thanks for all your contributions.

  53. I don’t know if many (or any) people ask about “Special Deputies,” but I know that in at least one of Georgia’s four most populous counties, when the Sheriff “deputizes” municipal or campus police officers, D.A.’s or Solicitor’s investigators, etc., the i.d. cards bear a VERY large, digital watermark that says “Special Deputy.” The underlying forms purport to condition the deputization on continued employment with the officer’s primary agency, and status as a peace officer, and to limit the “deputy’s” authority to situations in which he or she is engaged in carrying out official duties on behalf of the agency that actually employs them.

    I’ve been involved in researching this “special deputy” issue in regard to a legal matter, and thought you and/or some of your readers might be interested in what I’ve found.

    First, there are only two Georgia statutes that use the term “special deputy.” One is O.C.G.A. 35-8-19, which allows officials, including a sheriff) in cites along Georgia’s borders with other states to deputize, appoint, etc. residents/citizens of the adjoining state as “special deputies,” special constanbles, police officers, marshals, etc., if, other than being citizens of the other (lesser!) state, they meet the requirements to be a Georgia peace officer. While I guess that could apply to an Alabama sheriff and a Georgia sheriff cross-swearing some of each other’s deputies, or whatever, I think that what was intended was that, for example, Columbus could hire police applicants from Phenix City and/or that a Muscogee deputy can relocate to the other side of the bridge, without necessarily losing his job.

    Second, there is a semi-obscure, non-codified statute that authorizes Dodge County, specifically, to appoint “special deputies” for certain limited (revenue) purposes.

    Beyond that, there is a 1975 Attorney General’s Opinion, issued prior to enactment of O.C.G.A. 35-8-19 that says, in effect, that the term “special deputy” is meaningless, except in Dodge County. The Opinion also raised the question whether deputization might be an all or nothing thing, and whether attempting to deputize for only limited purposes might fail to vest the “special deputy” with any powers at all.

    I believe this issue may become more relevant in the coming months and years, both because my reading of Zilke is a bit broader than yours, and I believe that Justice Benham’s reasoning would proscribe all extraterritorial traffic enforcement, whether or not a custodial arrest was involved, and also will, when a case reaches our Supreme Court, be applied to the similar statutory language pertaining to arrests for non-traffic offenses. As you’ve pointed out, in Georgia, Sheriffs are Constitutional officers of the State, while city and county police officers are not. In fact, the code section that defines the authority of county police officers specifies that they may exercise there law enforcement powers when in that county, implying that they can’t beyond its boundaries. And, I note that the legislature enacted a law that allows city and county police to leave their jurisdictions to transport prisoners between a jail and a court, hospital, or other medical facility, which would not have been necessary if such officers possessed extraterritorial authority.

    Search warrants are a special case, as the relevant Code sections specifically authorize extraterritorial actions, rather than being silent re the issue.

    A minor point, but one that any sheriff should consider re deputizing campus police officers: Campus police officers employed by the University of Georgia System probably qualify as peace officers, and those employed by other public colleges in Georgia MAY qualify as peace officers, but those employed by private colleges and universities clearly fall outside any of the several definitions of “peace officer” that appear in the Georgia Code. Being P.O.S.T. certified as a peace officer, or even having the same powers as a local peace officer, are not the same as having the legal status of “peace officer.” Just something to keep in mind when drafting forms or issuing i.d. cards- if they state that the “special deputy” must currently be employed as a peace officer, and he or she works for Emory, Agnes Scott, Mercer, or some other private institution, there’s going to be a serious problem, if a suspect-turned-plaintifft is knowledgeable enough to raise the issue.

  54. Issue of significant importance to very few people. If you are not a campus police officer or a senior official in a sheriff’s department that deputizes some of them, you can ignore this.

    There were plenty of hints in the Georgia Code that campus police officers, at least those employed by private institutions, are not “peace officers.” They may have most of the same powers as peace officers employed by cities or counties, but they do not meet any definition of “peace officer” anywhere in the Code, are not “state officers,” have no “law enforcement duties” imposed by law (as opposed to assigned by their employers), and their authority comes not from their certification by P.O.S.T., but from the governing authorities of the schools that employ them. I know that, put that way, it all sounds a bit strange, but, earlier this week, the Court of Appeals confirmed the above in their latest decision in Hartley vs Agnes Scott College (though, sometimes, it listed as Agnes Scott College vs Hartley).

    The Court did not really address the fact that those campus police officers (officer under the University System may be different) also are not “sworn officers,” whether because there is no provision in the code for them to take oaths, or because, given that they have no legal duties (20-8-3), there wouldn’t be much for them to swear to.

    Now, if you a member of the command staff of an S.O. that interacts with campus police from one or more private schools:

    1. If you confer their officers with deputy or “special deputy” status that is predicated on them being “peace officers,” where does that leave both the Sheriff and those campus officers, if and when those officers act beyond their territorial jurisdiction as campus officers, or even conduct a search incident to arrest (no problem, constitutionally, but take a look at O.C.G.A. 17-5-1) and note the term “peace officer,” exclusively.

    2. If your jail is located outside the territorial jurisdiction of the campus police officers, as defined by 20-8-1 (not to be confused with that of University System officers, which is defined by 20-3-72) can your deputies turn over a prisoner to one of those campus officers, for transport to and from court? Take a look at 17-4-25.1, keeping in mind that the campus officers are not “sworn officers.”

    3. If campus police from any school outside the University System of Georgia system request your agency assist in serving a search warrant within your jurisdiction, before agreeing to, take a look at 17-5-21, and note that it refers only to the jurisdiction of University System campus police (i.e. 20-3-72), and doesn’t seem to contemplate that campus officers from private schools engage in executing search warrants.

    You might think these are unimportant technicalities– nitpicking on my part– and that any court would assume that even though the legislature said “peace officer,” “sworn officer,” “employed by a political subdivision,” or whatever, that it meant to include campus police officers, too. The problem with that is that there are Code sections in at least four or five chapters of the code that specifically distinguish between “campus police officers,” on the one hand, and “peace officers” and “law enforcement officers” on the other, often listing them in separate subsections of the same code section, which there would have been not reason to do, if the legislature intended that “campus police officers” be considered “peace officers” or “law enforcement officers.”

    Food for thought, but only for very few minds.

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