Bill Cracking Down on ‘Swatting’ Clears Georgia House

Dave Williams

Tuesday, March 12th, 2024

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The Georgia House of Representatives overwhelmingly passed legislation Monday aimed at  “swatting,” false reports of criminal activity that send police to the homes or offices of targeted victims.

The bill, which passed 162-2, increases penalties for those found guilty of making swatting calls, mandating a prison sentence of 10 to 15 years and a fine of at least $25,000 upon conviction of a third offense. First and second offenses would require lesser prison terms and fines.

Incidents of swatting calls targeting politicians have been on the rise. During the last three months, three Republican state senators, a Democratic state senator, GOP Lt. Gov. Burt Jones, and U.S. Rep. Marjorie Taylor Greene, R-Rome, have been targeted by swatting calls.

“New techniques like AI (artificial intelligence) … have made swatting calls more of a headache for law enforcement,” state Rep. Deborah Silcox, R-Sandy Springs, said Monday.

Rep. Tyler Paul Smith, R-Bremen, said swatting calls typically cost law enforcement agencies – and, thus, taxpayers – $15,000 to $25,000.

The state Senate passed the bill unanimously late last month. The House Judiciary Non-Civil Committee added a section to the measure that creates the crime of drive-by shootings, punishable by a prison sentence of five years to 20.

The legislation clears up confusion over existing laws governing drive-by shootings, said Rep. Matt Reeves, R-Duluth, who carried Senate Bill 421 in the House.

“This makes it clear: Do not shoot at a dwelling. Do not shoot at a car,” he said.

A 3-year-old Athens boy was shot and killed during a drive-by shooting over the weekend while watching television in his home.

“Drive-by shootings are incredibly dangerous … often for bystanders,” said House Majority Leader Chuck Efstration, R-Dacula. “Cleaning up the statute is necessary.”

Because of the changes made by the House, the bill must return to the Senate before gaining final passage.