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Merlinus Monroe, J.D. View Entire Blog
Update on Georgia Hate Crime Law (in brief)
3/23/2012
The National Defense Authorization Act ("NDAA", which I am opposed to on principle because it radically violates many of the foundational ideas that Americans take for granted, and upon which our criminal justice system and notions of personal liberty are based) updated the existing federal hate crime legislation in 2009 to include, among other things, the following provisions (both defining a separate crime as a "hate crime" and seeking aggravated punishment for acts that meet the definition):

"(1) OFFENSES INVOLVING ACTUAL OR PERCEIVED RACE, COLOR, RELIGION, OR NATIONAL ORIGIN- Whoever, whether or not acting under color of law, willfully causes bodily injury to any person or, through the use of fire, a firearm, a dangerous weapon, or an explosive or incendiary device, attempts to cause bodily injury to any person, because of the actual or perceived race, color, religion, or national origin of any person--
`(A) shall be imprisoned not more than 10 years, fined in accordance with this title, or both; and
`(B) shall be imprisoned for any term of years or for life, fined in accordance with this title, or both, if--
`(i) death results from the offense; or
`(ii) the offense includes kidnapping or an attempt to kidnap, aggravated sexual abuse or an attempt to commit aggravated sexual abuse, or an attempt to kill.
`(2) OFFENSES INVOLVING ACTUAL OR PERCEIVED RELIGION, NATIONAL ORIGIN, GENDER, SEXUAL ORIENTATION, GENDER IDENTITY, OR DISABILITY-
`(A) IN GENERAL- Whoever, whether or not acting under color of law, in any circumstance described in subparagraph (B) or paragraph (3), willfully causes bodily injury to any person or, through the use of fire, a firearm, a dangerous weapon, or an explosive or incendiary device, attempts to cause bodily injury to any person, because of the actual or perceived religion, national origin, gender, sexual orientation, gender identity or disability of any person--
`(i) shall be imprisoned not more than 10 years, fined in accordance with this title, or both; and
`(ii) shall be imprisoned for any term of years or for life, fined in accordance with this title, or both, if--
`(I) death results from the offense; or
`(II) the offense includes kidnapping or an attempt to kidnap, aggravated sexual abuse or an attempt to commit aggravated sexual abuse, or an attempt to kill."

Georgia previously attempted to make a separate "hate crime" law, but it was found to be unconstitutional as written, in Botts v. State, 604 S.E.2d 512, 278 Ga. 538 (Ga. 2004)(OCGA § 17-10-17 is too vague to justify the imposition of enhanced criminal punishment for its violation).

OCGA § 17-10-17 :
(a) Subject to the notice requirement provided in Code Section 17-10-18 and in enhancement of the penalty imposed, if the trier of fact determines beyond a reasonable doubt that the defendant intentionally selected any victim or any property of the victim as the object of the offense because of bias or prejudice, the judge imposing sentence shall:

(1) If the offense for which the defendant was convicted is a misdemeanor, increase the sentence and the fine normally imposed by the court through court policy or voluntary sentencing guidelines by 50 percent up to the maximum authorized by law;

(2) If the offense for which the defendant was convicted is a misdemeanor of a high and aggravated nature, increase the sentence and fine normally imposed by the court through court policy or voluntary sentencing guidelines by 50 percent up to the maximum authorized by law; or

(3) If the offense for which the defendant was convicted is a felony, increase the sentence normally imposed by the court through court policy or voluntary sentencing guidelines by up to five years, not to exceed the maximum authorized by law.

(b) The judge shall state when the judge imposes the sentence the amount of the increase of the sentence based on the application of subsection (a) of this Code section.