Justice For All

Legislative Package

This past session, the Georgia House Democratic Caucus introduced a package of substantive criminal justice reform bills called “Justice For All.”  The bills address issues such as accountability for District Attorneys, accountability for law enforcement agencies, and other issues that will work to ensure the public is being protected.

 

This package is only the start.  But an important one.  These measures speak to the core of combating the disparities that exist in the administration of criminal justice in Georgia.  We cannot accept a system that only works for some.  It only works when we have justice for all.

Hate Crimes Bill (HB 426)

The bill provides that a defendant is subject to enhanced criminal penalties if the defendant chose their victim based on the victim’s race, color, religion, national origin, sexual orientation, gender, mental disability, or physical disability. This applies if the victim is actually a member of one or more these groups or the defendant perceived the victim to be a member of one or more of these groups. 

The Georgia House Democratic Caucus fully supported the passage of HB 426.  If a crime is committed, and the victim was chosen based on their race, color, religion, national origin, sexual orientation, gender, mental disability, or physical disability, then the defendant should be subject to an enhanced penalty.  Too many people suffer at the hands of hateful individuals.  There must be additional consequences when hate crimes are committed.  

Use of Force Data Collection Act (HB 636)

HB 636 would require law enforcement agencies to maintain a publicly accessible database of all incidents where officers used force.  The database would also include the identities of officers who have been disciplined for their use of force.

After the murders of Ahmaud Arbery, George Floyd, Breonna Taylor, Rayshard Brooks, additional scrutiny of law enforcement agencies is a must.  By maintaining a publicly accessible database of all incidents where officers used force, it provides transparency to the public about the individuals who are out policing in their communities.  This bill would allow for greater accountability from our law enforcement agencies in who they are hiring.

Body-Cameras for All Law Enforcement Agencies in Georgia (HB 1185)

This bill provides that certain peace officers wear body-cameras that record audio and video of all activities performed while on duty.

Body-cameras are a great way to improve law enforcement practice.  The body-cameras would allow for real-time information to be captured as law enforcement patrols the community.  Having peace officers wear body-cameras lead to more positive interactions with the community and makes officers more cautious in their actions. 

Change of Venue for District Attorney Act (HB 1186)

This bill permits a replacement district attorney to request a change of venue if: a previous district attorney was removed from the case for cause, or if a local government official made statements that tainted the local jury pool.

 

One of the pillars of our criminal justice system is the ability to be tried by a jury of your peers.  If a District Attorney gets removed or if a local government official makes statements that taints the local jury pool, it is only just that a change of venue be allowed.  We must provide an avenue to allow for justice to be served.

Anti-Chokehold Legislation (HB 1187)

This legislation would prohibit the use of pressure on the throat or windpipe by a law enforcement officers. A similar bill was filed in U.S. House of Representatives in 2019.

The use of chokeholds by police officers should not be allowed in our society.  There are many other ways to subdue a suspect.  The chokehold is dangerous because it can very easily lead to death.  This use of excessive force is unnecessary.  It should be banned. 

Repeal Stand Your Ground (HB 1190)

This bill would repeal stand your ground.

 

We fully support repealing stand your ground in its entirety.  Georgia is one of 26 states that has a stand your ground law on the books.  The “shoot first, ask questions later” culture has no place in our state. 

Repeal Citizen’s Arrest (HB 1203)

The bill would repeal citizen’s arrest in its entirety. 

 

No private person should be allowed to effectuate an arrest.  The perpetrators in the Ahmaud Arbery case have claimed this as a defense to the murder they committed.  The current law allows for private persons to arrest another person if a felony has been committed in their presence.  This law empowers individuals to serve as a shield for those who try to perform vigilante justice. It is time for that to end.  No private citizen should have the right to police their own communities.    

 

End Racial Profiling Act (HB 1207)

This bill prohibits law enforcement agencies from engaging in racial profiling. The bill requires the Attorney General to publish an annual report on how many times a law enforcement agency stops, searches, frisks, or collects data on individuals.

No individual deserves to be stopped by law enforcement based on their race.  Racial profiling has no place in our society, and we cannot allow it to happen anymore.

 

Repeal “No Knock” Warrants (HB 1209)

This bill prohibits “no knock search warrants.” A no knock warrant permits an officer to execute a search without giving audible notice of their presence and purpose. 

 

No Georgian should be subjected to a “no knock” warrant.  The murder of Breonna Taylor happened because officers were executing a “no knock” warrant.  This policing tactic has significantly increased in usage over the past few decades.  There must be clear notice for when law enforcement is about to enter private property.

 

Repeal Special Presentments for Law Enforcement Officers (HB 1210)

This bill repeals the provisions that give law enforcement officers advance notice of charges before their case is sent to a grand jury and permits law enforcement officers to present evidence to the grand jury.

 

Law enforcement officers should not have special treatment in the court of law.  We believe that officers need to be treated the same as any other person who is in front of the grand jury.

Establishment of a District Attorney Oversight Commission (HB 1214)

This bill creates the District Attorney Oversight Commission.  This Commission would have the power to discipline, remove, and force the retirement of district attorneys. 

 

Currently, there is no mechanism to discipline, remove, and force the retirement of district attorneys in the state of Georgia.  District Attorneys need oversight.

Removes Official/Qualified Immunity for Law Enforcement Officers in Georgia for Misconduct or Illegal Activities (HB 1230) 

This bill removes official/qualified immunity protection from civil actions against law enforcement officers who have engaged in misconduct or illegal activities. 

 

If law enforcement officers have been engaging in misconduct or illegal activities, they should not have the protection of immunity from civil actions.  Victims of misconduct or illegal activities should have legal recourse.

Appointment of a Special Prosecuting Attorney When a Law Enforcement Officer is Charged With a Felony or an Act of Family Violence (HB 1239)
This bill provides for the appointment of a prosecuting attorney when the accused is a law enforcement officer charged with a felony or an act of family violence

There must be additional oversight when a law enforcement officer is charged with a felony or an act of family violence.  Accountability is crucial. 

 

PTSD Training For Police Officers Act (HB 1250)

This bill provides that the Georgia Peace Officers Standards and Training Council to establish basic and in-service training courses for all peace officers training on post-traumatic stress disorder

 

Police officers deal with stressful situations daily, but if they are not trained on how to deal with individuals with PTSD, it could lead to deadly situations.

Law Enforcement Officers Apply Nonviolent Means When Effecting an Arrest (HB 1255)
This bill provides that law enforcement officers shall apply nonviolent means, when possible, before resorting to the use of physical force in carrying out his or her duties. 

 
Law enforcement officers should not use deadly force when dealing with a suspect.   

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