Two Major Bills Passed The Georgia Legislation That Impact You: HB 838 and SB 402


The following is based on information provided by the Southern Center for Human Rights

Georgia HB 838 is on the Governor’s Desk

Georgia HB 838 has passed the House and the Senate and is expected to be, if not already, on the Governor’s desk any day now for signature or Veto. The Southern Center for Human Rights urges you to CALL THE Governor’s Office NOW and ask for a VETO.

HB 838 increases penalties for crimes against police, firefighters and paramedics. HB 838 also creates a “Hate Crime” and additional rights to protect cops and other first responders. The bill provides enhanced penalties for people who target cops and other first responders. There was no need to increase punishments for people who commit crimes against first responders because Georgia law already provided adequate protections as well as enhanced penalties when first responders are the victims of crime.

However, the new language in HB 838 establishes extraordinary rights for police officers who are under investigation. Officers under investigation will [now] have rights and protections during the interrogation process that are not granted to anyone else in Georgia – rights that include:

To have All Witnesses Interviewed BEFORE the officer is questioned; to receive notice about the nature of the investigation BEFORE being questioned; to be interrogated at a reasonable time – preferably when the officer is on duty and will be paid for the time; to receive a copy of every question asked and statement made within 72 hours; and to be interrogated without offensive language or threats.

HB 838 further reduces accountability by creating these new rights for officers under investigation, and as such, our lawmakers will make it difficult for Georgia residents to trust an investigative process that depends on who is being accused.

The Southern Center for Human Rights strongly urges you to contact the Governor’s office now and demand a VETO on HB 838.

Below is a **Suggested Script for Calls and Emails**

“My name is [NAME] and I live in [HOME CITY]. I am calling/ writing to express my concerns about the police protections added to HB838. Police officers who are being investigated should be subject to the same interrogation process as everyone else. Police officers are responsible for the safety of our communities, our families, and our children. It is because of this responsibility that we should hold them to a higher standard of integrity and accountability, particularly when they are accused of wrongdoing.

It is impossible for the community to trust an investigation when the process depends on whether the accused wears a badge. Considering the hundreds of police officers that have avoided prosecution for killing people in Georgia, lawmakers should instead be working on ways to improve accountability, consistency and fairness in the investigation of wrongdoing in our state, Moreover, police officers and first responders are already entitled to a number of protections in the law. An additional penalty for crimes against first responders is not necessary.

I urge you to VETO HB838. This bill gives unfair advantages to undeserving cops and will further erode community trust in law enforcement. We don’t need any more special privileges for cops.”

The following is based on information provided by the Southern Center for

Human Rights Senate Bill 402 is the Law

Senate Bill 402 has passed the Senate and the House and IS NOW THE LAW. SB 402 ends the use of unsecured bonds, limits judicial discretion, and increases jail populations. SB 402 unjustly and unfairly harms Black, Brown and Poor persons.

SB 402 ends the use of signature bonds for every criminal allegation — including misdemeanors, ordinance violations and delinquent acts by children. Signature bonds, or ‘unsecured’ bonds, allow a defendant to be freed from jail pre-trial if they promise to pay an agreed-upon sum of money, should they violate the court’s conditions. SB 402 forces poor people to remain in jail, while those with resources – charged with the exact same offense – can purchase their release.

SB 402 limits judges to two financial options for pretrial releases: either impose secured bonds, or nothing. By limiting the judicial options, this legislation encourages judges to issue more secured bonds, which will line the pockets of the bail bond industry and fill cells up with people too poor to purchase their release.

SB 402 unjustly harms Black, Brown and Poor communities, wasting taxpayers’ money. This law

Perpetuates Profiteering: The bail bonding industry lobbies for ending alternatives to cash bail so that they can continue to profit off the backs of people in pre-trial detention who are often the poor; Shifts the Burden of Cost: Cities and counties are forced to spend millions of taxpayer dollars unnecessarily jailing persons who might be eligible for pre-trial release; Criminalizes Poverty: Many poor persons are forced to stay in jail because they cannot pay for release while those who can afford it – facing the same chargesare free; Compromises Public Safety: Persons who are able to return to their jobs, families and communities without paying cash bail are less likely to be rearrested; Increases Racial Bias: Cash bail disproportionately punished Black and Brown persons. Nationally, Black and Brown defendants are at least 10-25% more likely than white defendants to be detained pretrial or to have to pay bail money; and Removes Judicial Discretion: Signature bonds are an important discretionary tool for judges. SB 402 eliminates a judge’s ability to release a person charged with a bail restricted offense on unsecured judicial release to a pretrial release or diversion program.

SB 402 is the law in Georgia. However, you can still let your voice be heard about this law. The Southern Center for Human Rights urges you to contact your Representative today and express your concern about a law that punishes the poor and most marginalized populations in our state.

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