Georgia Measure Would Impose Stiffer Fines For’swatting’ Calls


ATLANTA (AP)— Georgia’s state House passed a bill Monday that would tighten punishments for fake reports of shootings and bomb threats at homes, known as swatting.

A drive-by shooting would also be considered a distinct offense under the proposed legislation.

The House voted 162-2 in favor of Senate Bill 421, which was sent back to the Senate after being altered to include the drive-by shooting restrictions.

In December, Georgia elected officials received a slew of swatting calls, which are prank calls to emergency services to elicit a response to a specific home, typically a SWAT squad.

Among those targeted were many state legislators, Lt. Gov. Burt Jones, and U.S. Rep. Marjorie Taylor Greene. Jones claimed his home in a tiny community south of Atlanta was swatted, only to have a bomb threat called in the next day.

Making such false claims is already criminal in Georgia, although initial crimes are currently misdemeanors unless they target critical infrastructure.

The bill would also make a first offense a felony if it targeted a home or a place of worship. The bill also doubles the felony penalty for second violations, imposing the minimum prison sentence of five years instead of one. It further increases the penalties for a third violation, mandating a sentence of 10 to 15 years.

The proposal also requires guilty individuals to compensate property owners for any monetary losses or costs incurred by a responding agency, such as compensation for property damage or the cost of treating injuries.

“Those who are doing the swatting will be behind bars,” said Duluth Republican state Rep. Matt Reeves.

Georgia is the latest state to propose tougher swatting punishments. Last year, Ohio made it a criminal to report a phony emergency, which draws police enforcement action. Virginia has upped the penalty for swatting to up to 12 months in jail.

Police have shot people as a result of swatting injuries, and officials are concerned that resources will be diverted away from real crises.

The Georgia proposal would also make drive-by shooting a separate crime. Supporters argue that it is necessary since some shooters have dodged criminal charges because present law is not clearly defined. The new offense would result in a five- to 20-year prison sentence for firing into an occupied house or motor vehicle. It would also be a racketeering charge under Georgia’s anti-racketeering law.

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