Fact Check: Georgia Did NOT Pass A Bill Making It A Hate Crime To Harass Police Officers

Fact Check

  • by: Victoria Eavis
Fact Check: Georgia Did NOT Pass A Bill Making It A Hate Crime To Harass Police Officers Separate Bills

Did Georgia's legislators pass a bill making it a hate crime to harass police officers? No, that's not true: This false claim combines two separate bills recently passed in Georgia. The first bill, signed into law in late June, is a hate crime bill that was spurred by the outrage over the murder of Ahmaud Arbery. The second bill, signed into law on August 5, provides additional legal protection to police officers and other first responders. Neither bill makes it a hate crime to harass or assault a police officer or other first responders.

The claim appeared in a Facebook meme (archived here) where it was published on August 8, 2020. It read:

Georgia just made it a hate crime to harass police officers and other emergency responders- lets make it NATIONAL!

This is what the post looked like on Facebook at the time of writing:

Facebook screenshot

(Source: Facebook screenshot taken on Fri Aug 21 13:36:54 2020 UTC)

The more recent bill, House Bill 838, made it a crime to harm a police officer, a firefighter or a emergency medical technician if the harm was motivated by their employment as a first responder or what the legislation calls "bias motivated by intimidation against first responders." The new crime carries a punishment of one to five years in prison and a fine of up to $5,000.

The earlier bill, House Bill 426, allows judges to increase the punishment for crimes motivated by perceived "race, color, religion, national origin, sex, sexual orientation, gender, mental disability or physical disability." HB 426 almost wasn't approved because Republicans attempted to add language that added protection for police officers. This langauge was removed, and Republicans instead passed the separate HB 838.

The Facebook post conflated the two bills in the claim that "Georgia just made it a hate crime to harass police officers and other emergency responders." It is has not been deemed a hate crime to harm a police officer or first responder based on their employment.

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  Victoria Eavis

Victoria Eavis is a fact checker at Lead Stories. She recently graduated from Duke University with a B.A. in Cultural Anthropology. In her last few months at Duke, she was a reporter for a student news site, The 9th Street Journal, that covers the city of Durham, North Carolina. 

Read more about or contact Victoria Eavis

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