June 17, 2020–10:19 a.m.
Lt. Gov. Geoff Duncan today introduced hate crimes legislation that empowers communities by giving them the ability to seek a hate crimes charge from a grand jury if local prosecutors don’t. The bill would also create a separate offense for “bias-motivated intimidation” for alleged hate crimes, which satisfies the constitutional protections of due process by requiring an indictment.
“As a man of faith, I believe we are called to treat others as we’d want to be treated, but to also stand up for the vulnerable, to comfort the afflicted and welcome the ostracized,” Duncan said. “I believe this legislation answers that call, and I will work hand in hand with legislators in both parties and in both houses to ensure we get this over the finish line. The eyes of the nation are upon us, and we need to do more than check the box; we must deliver a strong, meaningful bill that leaves no doubt that Georgians will not tolerate hate.
“The tragic murder of Ahmaud Arbery in Brunswick has brought the need for this change to the forefront of Georgians’ minds. When the shooter stood over the body of an unarmed man and called him a racial slur, that’s clear evidence, to me and to all Georgians, of a hate crime. And we have to stand up and say, that’s unacceptable in our state. In that case, despite the horrifying video evidence, the prosecutor in the case decided that no crime was committed. If it were not for the public seeing the video, the killers of Ahmaud would have escaped justice. A hate crimes law that allows for only prosecutors to press hate crimes charges would not have worked in that case. That’s why this version of the bill creates a new avenue for victims to seek a hate crimes charge.”
Duncan’s hate crimes measure goes further than simply enhancing the sentence of a violator. By establishing a separate offense for bias-motivated crimes this legislation expands access to justice for victims and ensures due process for those accused. This legislation also broadens the classes of victims protected to ensure equality, while providing an avenue for victims to seek civil penalties and recover damages. Mandating that officers submit reports in cases of hate crimes will ensure accurate tracking of critical data. This component brings transparency to the process and will provide a comprehensive statewide report.
“I greatly appreciate the leadership that the House has shown on this issue,” Duncan said, “and I think we need to build on that because so much has happened in our state to change hearts and minds since that bill passed the House. We’re going to get this done, we’re going to show the rest of the nation who we are and we’re going to make Georgians proud.”