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Georgia lawmakers sign off on increased penalties for swatting

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(The Center Square) — Georgia lawmakers have signed off on legislation to increase penalties for swatting, a hoax 911 call reporting a fake emergency prompting authorities to respond to an unsuspecting house.

The House voted 162-2 in favor of Senate Bill 421, while the Senate voted 48-0 to give its final signoff. With its passage, the measure heads to Republican Gov. Brian Kemp for his signature.

The move follows the swatting of several Georgia officials during and since the Christmas holiday. But it’s not just Georgia officials who have fallen victim to swatting, nationally, there have been increased reports of swatting calls.

Georgia House members amended SB 421 to include increased penalties for drive-by shootings. Under the revised bill, anyone convicted of a drive-by shooting faces between five and 20 years in prison.

“When the 2024 Legislative Session began, I aimed to enact anti-swatting legislation, spurred by swatting calls that impacted a number of elected officials, including myself,” state Sen. Clint Dixon, R-Gwinnett, said in a statement. “I believe this bill will play a vital role in combating crimes such as ‘swatting’ and drive-by shootings. … With this legislation, we’ve taken a significant step towards making Georgia the safest state to live, work, and raise a family.”

The measure amends OCGA 16-10-28, which the Prosecuting Attorneys’ Council of Georgia previously told The Center Square could be used to tackle swatting.

It makes a first conviction “a high and aggravated” misdemeanor, while a second conviction carries a sentence of at least five years in prison and a fine of at least $5,000. A third or subsequent conviction carries a sentence of 10 to 15 years in prison and a fine of at least $25,000.

“The safety of Georgians has always been top of mind,” Lt. Governor Burt Jones, a Republican, said in a statement. “I am proud to lead the fight against crimes like ‘swatting’ and drive-by shootings to keep Georgians safe. With the passage of SB 421, we take a great step forward in making Georgia the safest state in the nation.”