DeKalb city bolsters penalties for hate crimes charged in city court

Doraville City Hall.
Doraville City Hall.

Credit: J.D. Capelouto/jdcapelouto@ajc.com

Credit: J.D. Capelouto/jdcapelouto@ajc.com

The city of Doraville on Monday passed legislation that can increase the penalties for certain crimes if they were motivated by hate.

The move comes weeks after the state passed a hate-crimes bill that extends protections to people who are targeted because of their race, sexual orientation or religion.

Doraville’s ordinance, which the City Council passed unanimously, allows the city’s prosecutor to seek enhanced fines and bonds for five offenses tried in Municipal Court if they are deemed hate crimes:

  • Malicious mischief
  • Disorderly conduct
  • Offenses against public peace and tranquility
  • Destruction of property
  • Defacing buildings

The Municipal Court enforces traffic offenses and city ordinances.

“This is really just a tool in the toolbox of the prosecutor to be given the authority to apply enhanced fines ... if it was determined that something coming to our municipal court was labeled as a hate crime,” said Councilwoman Stephe Koontz, who sponsored the measure.

The protected classes include race, religion, gender identity, sexual orientation and disability.

“We do get graffiti and vandalism. A lot of those cases are motivated by some sort of bias,” Koontz said.

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The ordinance is similar to a law Sandy Springs adopted last year that called on the courts to impose more severe penalties for hate crimes.

Koontz said Georgia’s recent hate-crimes legislation made it easier for Doraville to pass its own ordinance, because the state’s law defined hate crimes and mandates that law enforcement track instances of hate crimes.

In 2018, Doraville became the second city in the state to pass an anti-discrimination ordinance that prevented business owners from discriminating against customers.

“However, recent events throughout Georgia made it clear that we needed to go even further,” Mayor Joseph Geierman said in a statement. “This change to our law sends a strong message that Doraville respects diversity and that those who don’t share that respect are not welcome here.”

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