As a member of the Georgia House of Representatives, I vote on and consider hundreds of bills, many of which are arcane and obscure, but from time-to-time, I have the opportunity to work on something about which I feel passionate. One of my greatest passions is helping prevent and protect victims of domestic violence. I have worked with victim advocates and prosecutors on these matters throughout my tenure in the legislature. This was the reason that I agreed to carry Senate Bill 193 in the House. Senate Bill 193 closes the loophole for repeat offenders who commit acts of family violence. Under Senate Bill 193, any prior offense of family violence, or prior offense that is more serious that was committed against a family member, triggers the same repeat offender punishment and allows for these cases to be prosecuted as a felony.
The impetus for this bill came from the prosecution of a man who assaulted his domestic partner. During the prosecution of this case, it came to light that this was not the first time the defendant had committed an act of domestic violence. After conducting a thorough investigation, investigators discovered he had previously been arrested in another state for murdering his wife. In the estimation of the prosecutors, this prior history should’ve been considered when charging the accused with misdemeanor family violence battery, and the prior record should’ve made it a felony. However, because the prior conviction was not specifically for “family violence battery,” the current law did not consider this an aggravator, and the defendant’s new charge of family violence battery was only a misdemeanor. As far as the law was concerned, this new offense was a “first time family violence battery.” Therefore, he was charged with a lesser misdemeanor.
This oversight in the existing law prevented a violent repeat offender from facing the harsher penalties that would’ve been imposed on others. Without making changes, we will continue to see miscarriages of justice. This law creates the necessary protection for victims of domestic violence and ensures that abusers receive the punishment they deserve.
Senate Bill 193 provides that if the accused has previously been convicted of a forcible felony committed against another member of their household, either in Georgia or in another state, then they will be charged with felony. If convicted, they shall be sentenced to a prison term of not less than one but no more than five years.
I am thankful that this is being addressed and that I have the opportunity to work on behalf of victims and families. Shepherding this change through the process is a small, but I hope meaningful, victory against domestic violence.