Georgia bill seeks to raise penalties for fleeing police

Georgia lawmakers are seeking to raise the penalties for people who flee from police.

The House voted 95-62 on Thursday to approve House Bill 1216, sending it to the Senate for more debate.

The measure says that anyone convicted of fleeing from the police for a fourth time would be convicted of a felony. Right now, all offenses of fleeing from police in Georgia are high and aggravated misdemeanors, a category of misdemeanor that carries higher penalties.

Supporters of the change cite more than 500 pursuits conducted by state troopers as part of a crime suppression detail they have been working in metro Atlanta since April 2021. Troopers were deployed to that detail in part because some police agencies, including Atlanta, have policies that restrict police chases to only those suspected of committing the most serious offenses.

Someone convicted of a fourth offense within 10 years would be required to spend 1 to 10 years in prison and pay a fine of $5,000 to $10,000

The bill would also raise the minimum fines and jail penalties for earlier offenses. Someone convicted for the first time, for example, would be sentenced to at least 30 days in jail, up from 10 days now, and would be fined at least $1,000, up from $500 now.

Opponents said there was no data to show eluding police was getting worse or that higher penalties would deter fleeing suspects.

“It’s just the routine grind of piling on in a criminal legal system that we’re not sure works,” said Rep. Scott McLaurin, a Sandy Springs Democrat.