Controversial Gang-Crime Bill May Charge Teens as Adults
A new bill has been proposed in Georgia that could result in teens charged with gang related crimes being punished more severely.
Gang-related crimes have become an increasingly common problem in Gwinnett County and throughout the state of Georgia. These often involve juvenile offenders, who face pressure from their peers to join gangs and to engage in illegal activity. To put a stop to it, a new bill proposed by Georgia Governor Brian Kemp promises to get tough on gang crime by broadening laws currently in place. This includes trying teens facing gang-related charges in adult court and increasing the penalties they could face.
Juvenile Offenders and Gang-Related Crimes
The efforts of law enforcement officials have brought about a general decrease in the number of crimes being committed in Georgia, except in one particular area. The Georgia Bureau of Investigation (GBI) Criminal Street Crime Gang Database shows more than 100 gangs, with 17,000 gang members, and associates, are currently operating throughout the state. Many of these include young people under the age of 17.
Juveniles often get drawn into gangs due to pressure from their peers, where they are forced to commit crimes as part of their initiation. Once in, criminal activity escalates. To combat these trends, government officials are proposing stricter state laws.
According to a March 2020 news report by the Atlanta Journal Constitution, Georgia’s Governor recently introduced a new crime bill in the House of Representative that takes a tough stance on gang crimes and those who perpetuate it. If approved, it would allow juvenile offenders to be charged as adults.
New Bill Increases Penalties for Teens Convicted of Gang-Related Crimes
House Bill 944 is an important piece of anti-gang legislation currently being considered in Georgia. Governor Kemp dubbed it the Nicholas Sheffey Act when it was introduced at the beginning of the year. He named it after the victim of a gang related murder, whose mother was outraged when the 21-year-old offender charged in the case did not get the death penalty.
HB 992 would increase the types of crimes that could be charged as gang-related and the penalties offenders face. It also would require prosecutors to request that juvenile judges transfer gang crime cases involving offenders between the ages of 13 and 17 to adult court. There, they would face more severe penalties, including lengthy prison sentences and the possibility of the death penalty, as well as an adult criminal record. It could also result in their names being added to the state sex offenders registry in cases involving the following offenses:
- Burglary if the intent is to commit a sexual offense;
- Keeping a place of prostitution;
- Any gang related crime that involves a sex offense or an attempt to commit one.
Get Our Gwinnett County, GA Criminal Defense Attorneys on Your Side
Gang-related charges are a serious matter for young people. To protect yourself or a family member facing these charges, get Zimmerman & Associates on your side. Call or contact our Gwinnett County criminal defense attorneys online to request a free consultation today.