The Georgia legislature passed a hate crimes bill on Tuesday that will allow stronger criminal penalties for anyone who targets a victim based on perceived race, color or another type of bias.
Under HB 426, any person who selects intentionally selects any victim because of the victim’s actual or perceived race, color, religion, national origin, sex, sexual orientation, gender, mental disability or physical disability could be convicted of either a designated misdemeanor or a felony. If the offense is a designated misdemeanor, the defendant could be imprisoned anywhere between six to 12 months, and fined a maximum of $5,000. If the offense is a felony, the defendant could be imprisoned for at least two years and fined a maximum of $5,000.
Law enforcement officers will also have to prepare and submit a “Bias Crime Report” when investigating crime incidents in which the defendant appears to have intentionally selected victims based upon race, gender or other reasons. Even if an arrest is not made, the officer will have to submit the written report to the law enforcement officer’s supervisor or other designated person.
The report will include the names, sex, gender, race and religion of the parties, along with other information deemed relevant to determine whether the crime was a result of bias. Regardless of whether an arrest is made, each incident will be reported to the Georgia Bureau of Investigation.
The Georgia State Senate passed the bill by a vote of 47-6. The bill then passed the Georgia House by a vote of 127-38. Governor Brian Kemp has indicated that he will sign the bill into law.