Atlanta, GA – The Georgia House of Representatives voted 95 to 62 to approve legislation that would increase the penalties for lawbreakers who flee from police.
The Georgia House approved House Bill 1216 on March 3 and sent it to the state Senate for more debate and another vote, the Associated Press reported.
The Georgia Senate read the bill the next day and referred it to the Senate Judiciary Committee.
State law currently makes fleeing from a law enforcement officer a high or aggravated misdemeanor, both of which carry higher penalties than regular misdemeanors.
The proposed legislation introduced a sort of three-strike policy that said anyone who was arrested for fleeing police for a fourth time would be charged with a felony, the Associated Press reported.
A conviction for a fourth offense fleeing police within 10 years would carry a one to 10-year prison sentence with fines of $5,000 to $10,000.
HB 1216 would also increase minimum fines and jail penalties for the first three offenses, the Associated Press reported.
For example, a person convicted of fleeing police for the first time would be sentenced to at least 30 days in jail.
Under current law, the offender could only be sentenced to up to 10 days behind bars, the Associated Press reported.
Fines for first-time offenders would also be increased from $500 to at least $1,000 under HB 1216.
Second-time offenders would pay $2,500 to $5,000 in fines and face 90 days to a year in jail.
Third-time offenders would face $4,000 to $5,000 in fines and could be sentenced from 180 days to a year behind bars.
Critics of the changes to the law claimed no data existed to support assertions that more people were trying to elude the police, the Associated Press reported.
Opponents also said there was no proof that higher penalties for fleeing would deter suspects from trying to make a run for it.
But HB 1216’s supporters pointed to more than 500 pursuits that were conducted since April of 2021 by Georgia State Patrol troopers as part of a crime suppression detail in metro Atlanta, the Associated Press reported.
Troopers were deployed to the Atlanta area specifically because local agencies have policies severely restricting police chases.