March12, 2020 Atlanta - Gov. Brian Kemp speaks during a press conference to provide an update on the state's efforts regarding COVID-19, after reporting the first death in Georgia related to coronavirus, at the Georgia State Capitol on Thursday, March 11, 2020. (Hyosub Shin / Hyosub.Shin@ajc.com)
Photo: HYOSUB SHIN / AJC
Photo: HYOSUB SHIN / AJC

Kemp’s anti-gang bill passes House

Gov. Brian Kemp’s bill intended to strengthen a statewide anti-gangs push has passed the state House.

HB 994 would allow prosecutors to ask juvenile judges to move gang-tied cases in order to transfer alleged gang members to the adult system. The bill would also mandate that the Department of Juvenile Justice put convicted juvenile gang members through an “evidence-based” gang rehabilitation program.

The law would add new crimes, which are often attributed to gangs, to the list that lands a person on the sex offender registry: burglary if the intent is to commit a sexual offense; keeping a place of prostitution; pimping; pandering; and any gang crime that involves a sex offense or an attempt to commit a sex offense. The convictions would have to be felonies to land the person on the registry.

HB 994 would also would clear the way for prosecutors to seek civil asset forfeiture orders on people convicted of criminal gang activity.

The legislation, which has seen opposition from criminal justice advocates, passed 93-65. It now moves to the state Senate for consideration.

Among the critics of the bill is DeKalb County District Attorney Sherry Boston, who said she is concerned by the proposal to put more juveniles through the adult court system. The Southern Center for Human Rights has asked the public to oppose the bill, calling it unnecessary and ill-advised. 

Kemp and his allies, meanwhile, have said the legislation gives police and law enforcement new tools to go after gang members, who are causing trouble around Georgia.

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