Lawmakers: Senate passes bill to expand bail-restricted offenses on Day 23
On Day 23, the Georgia Senate passed a bill that would eliminate unsecured judicial release for some offenses.
Senate Bill 63, sponsored by Sen. Randy Robertson (R - Cataula), aims to crack down on crime by expanding the list of crimes that require cash bail.
The bill would ban judges from ordering unsecured judicial release for accused offenders of a variety of crimes. Robertson said the bill is necessary to protect victims of crimes.
"What this bill does is put some rights back into the the lives of those individuals who are victims of crimes. So that they know that the perpetrators who broke into their lives and either injured them or took something from them, they have to have a little skin in the game to get back out of jail," he said.
Unsecured judicial release allows an accused offender to be released from jail as they await trial without paying a specific dollar amount. If SB 63 becomes law, all accused offenders of bail-restricted offenses would have to pay a dollar amount set by a judge to get out of jail.
Some of the new offenses that would be bail-restricted include marijuana possession, failure to appear, unlawful assembly, sex trafficking, voluntary manslaughter, destruction of property, and more.
The bill also adds domestic terrorism as a serious violent offense, making it eligible for an increased mandatory minimum. Robertson referenced a protest in Atlanta where several people were charged with domestic terrorism.
"Some individuals decided they did not want the city of Atlanta to expand their law enforcement training. So they went out, and they violently attempted to prevent the city of Atlanta from doing what they rightfully should. They burned police cars, they drew weapons on law enforcement officers. And they were arrested. Some of them were arrested more than once. So we're addressing that in this legislation," he said.
At least six people were charged with domestic terrorism in a violent protest for Atlanta's new police training facility, nicknamed "cop city." An activist was killed at the site of "cop city" in January after exchanging gunfire with law enforcement.
Opponents of SB 63 said that the bill unfairly targets poor Georgians who commit non-violent crimes. They also say it could increase crime if offenders for minor, nonviolent offenses have to remain in jail because they cannot afford to post bail.
"When we talk about addressing the cycle of crime in Georgia, this bill will perpetuate more people being conducive to crime because they don't have that opportunity. They lost that opportunity because they sat in jail because nobody would bond them out. Being poor shouldn't be a sentence to have to sit in jail in this state,” Sen. Derek Mallow (D - Savannah) said.
Mallow proposed an amendment that would reduce the new bail-restricted offenses. The amendment failed.
An amendment proposed by Sen. Ed Setzler (R - Acworth) would require that someone be taken to jail for a second or subsequent offense of failing to appear in court, but not the first. The amendment was adopted.
SB 63 passed 31 to 23 in a mostly party-line vote. It now moves to the House.