InsiderAdvantage: Yet Another Anti-Gang Bill to Be Considered

Phil Kent

Friday, February 18th, 2022

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House Bill 1134, authorizing Georgia’s attorney general to investigate and prosecute gang activity in any state jurisdiction with or without the approval of the local district attorney, passed the state House of Representatives Monday. It now goes to the Senate but, in the meantime, there’s also Senate Bill 359 which proponents say is the perfect companion to H.B. 1134.

Authored by state Sen. John Albers, R-Roswell, S.B. 359 appears necessary to further the successful implementation of gang prosecution by the state attorney general and other prosecutors. Consider that it:

· Expands venue provisions in criminal gang cases;

· Requires hearings and ruling on pre-trial motions (gang cases are notoriously motion heavy); and

· Allows for evidence of prior acts of abuse on vulnerable classes of victims (a favorite target of gangs).

So, to function effectively, supporters of H.B. 1134 say they need S.B. 359 to pass. (They also say S.B. 359 will help streamline jurisprudence generally— and this is particularly needed when dealing with criminal and civil court backlogs due to COVID.)

No surprise that the Georgia Defense Lawyers Association is voicing its opposition. Interestingly, though, some judges also don’t want it. They apparently don’t want to have to deal with pre-trial motions, hold hearings, make rulings or prepare written orders. (Proponents ask this question: Isn’t that what judges are supposed to do?)

Finally, a footnote to the anti-gang legislation being considered by the General Assembly. The fiscal 2023 state budget includes more than $1.3 million to add a dozen prosecutors to the attorney general’s staff to handle gang cases.