Joshua’s Law and Other New Georgia Laws Go Into Effect on July 1, 2021


July 1 always welcomes in the new laws passed by the Legislature in the last Legislative session. Tomorrow Georgia will have several new laws that go into effect, many of which you may not be aware.

The first you should know about is “Joshua’s Law,” codified at O.C.G.A. § 40-5-10.  The genesis of this law is the untimely and unnecessary death of Joshua Brown, son of LuGina and Alan Brown back on July 1, 2003. It is ironic that the law in his name goes into effect on the 18th anniversary of Joshua’s death.  I had the distinct honor of representing LuGina and Alan in a successful wrongful death lawsuit in Fulton County against the Georgia Department of Transportation.  We tried that case to a jury and settled it on the last day of trial. Joshua then was 18 years old at the time of his death. He had been admitted to the Berklee School of Music and wanted to be a musician. I can remember when LuGina testified she talked about visiting Berklee with Joshua and when she saw the campus and all the students walking around she saw “a hundred little Joshuas.” I have never forgotten that moment in trial. It was so moving. Our lawsuit involved the negligent maintenance of the road Joshua was on when he lost control of his truck due to hydroplaning, ran off a steep, unprotected hillside and crashed into a tree. The Browns immediately threw their grief into action by creating “Joshua’s Law” and began lobbying the Georgia General Assembly for passage of the law that would mandate driver education in every high school in Georgia.  The Browns were the recipients of the Georgia Trial Lawyers Association’s Courageous Pursuit of Justice Award for their relentless pursuit of justice against the Georgia Department of Transportation and for the creation of the new law “Joshua’s Law.”  The substance of the new law is as follows:

Effective: July 1, 2021
Ga. Code Ann., § 40-5-10
§ 40-5-10. Driver education training course curriculum
(a) The department shall establish standards for approval of curriculum for a driver education training course, provided that such course shall be designed to educate young drivers about safe driving practices and the traffic laws of this state and to train young drivers in the safe operation of motor vehicles.
(b) The department shall provide for the approval of similar courses from other states to satisfy the requirements of this chapter relating to driver education training courses for any child moving into this state within nine months of his or her sixteenth birthday when the child’s parent is in the active military service of the United States.
(c) Driver education training courses may be offered:
(1) By the department, a driver training school, a public or private high school, or a home education instructor; and
(2) Through in-person instruction, online courses, or remote participation platforms provided by in-person instruction providers.
(d) The department shall promulgate rules and regulations to implement the provisions of this Code section.
O.C.G.A. § 40-5-10
Other new laws going into effect tomorrow include the repeal of the Civil War era “Citizen’s Arrest” law.  Like “Joshua’s Law,” the repeal of the Citizen’s Arrest law was sparked by an untimely, totally unnecessary death of a young man, this time Ahmaud Arbery. 
Now a private citizen who is the owner of a business may only detain another private citizen if he believes that person has shoplifted or stolen something from the business owner.   It provides:
Effective: July 1, 2021
§ 17480. Detention by private persons
(b) A private person may detain an individual if such private person is:
(1) An owner of a retail establishment who has reasonable grounds to believe that the individual sought to be detained has committed or attempted to commit the offense of theft by shoplifting as set forth in Code Section 16-8-14, refund fraud as set forth in Code Section 16-8-14.1, or theft by unlawful use of retail sales receipts or Universal Product Code labels as set forth in Code Section 16-8-17;
(2) An owner of a food service establishment who has reasonable grounds to believe that the individual sought to be detained has committed or attempted to commit theft by taking as set forth in Code Section 16-8-2 or theft of services as set forth in Code Section 16-8-5;
(3) An owner of any business entity operating on their own property or on the property of others on which they are doing business who have reasonable grounds to believe that the individual sought to be detained has committed or attempted to commit theft by taking as set forth in Code Section 16-8-2 or theft of services as set forth in Code Section 16-8-5;
(4) A weight inspector under Article 5 of Chapter 2 of Title 35 when needed for purposes of performing his or her duties under such article; or
(5) A licensee or registrant under Chapter 38 of Title 43 when needed in the performance of his or her business conducted in conformance with such chapter.
O.C.G.A. § 17-4-80
This nonsense of a private vigilante like Travis and Greg McMichael thinking they can just order another citizen to stop at their command, and then shoot that citizen when he doesn’t allow them to kidnap him, is over, thankfully. I hope this new law prevents another senseless death like that of Ahmaud Arbery.
Another new law is the involuntary commitment of persons suffering from alcohol abuse or drug abuse. You may be familiar with the same law permitting involuntary commitment for someone who is mental ill and who may harm themselves.  This is specifically for drug or alcohol addicts. the new law provides:
Effective: July 1, 2021
§ 37741. Admission to an emergency receiving facility
(a) Any physician within this state may execute a certificate stating that he has personally examined a person within the preceding 48 hours and found that, based upon observations set forth in the certificate, the person appears to be an alcoholic, a drug dependent individual, or a drug abuser requiring involuntary treatment. A physician’s certificate shall expire seven days after it is executed. Any peace officer, within 72 hours after receiving such certificate, shall make diligent efforts to take into custody the person named in the certificate and to deliver him forthwith to the nearest available emergency receiving facility serving the county in which the patient is found, where he shall be received for examination.
O.C.G.A. § 37-7-41
There are other new laws going into effect tomorrow, including a nifty open container law that allows restaurants to sell cocktails to-go for “off-premises consumption in approved containers under certain conditions.”  This was one of the few silver linings of having gone through the Covid-19 pandemic.  Thank you, Georgia Legislature!
Stay safe out there over the 4th of July Holiday. There will be a lot of reckless, careless drivers out there. Stay alert and stay safe.

Robin Frazer Clark is a trial lawyer who pursues justice for those who have personal injury claims as a result of being injured in motor vehicle wrecks, trucking wrecks, defective products, defective maintenance of roads, premises safety, medical malpractice and other incidents caused by the negligence of others.  Ms. Clark is the 50th President of the State Bar of Georgia, a Past President of Georgia Trial Lawyers Association, a Past President of the Lawyers Club of Atlanta and has practiced law in Georgia for 30 years. She is a member of the International Society of Barristers and of the American Board of Trial Advocates. Mrs. Clark is listed as one of the Top 50 Women Trial Lawyers in Georgia and is a Georgia Super Lawyer. Ms. Clark is the co-host of the podcast “See You In Court,” sponsored by the Georgia Civil Justice Foundation.

Robin Frazer Clark ~ Dedicated to the Constitution’s Promise of Justice for All.



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