Governor Perdue Unveils Child Protection Legislation to Ensure the Safety and Well-being of Georgia's Children
|Monday, January 12, 2004||
Contact: Office of Communications 404-651-7774
Atlanta - Governor Sonny Perdue announced today the details of his Child Protection Package of 2004 during a ceremony at the State Capitol.
"Simply put, this legislation seeks to protect our children from drug addicts, kidnappers, and reckless caregivers," said Governor Sonny Perdue. "I believe this is solid legislation, and I intend to see it through to the end. There is nothing more important to me and the First Lady of Georgia than the health and safety of Georgia's children."
The legislation defines criminal negligence and amends the cruelty to children statute so that reckless caregivers can be prosecuted for criminally negligent behavior. The legislation also makes it illegal to manufacture methamphetamine in the presence of a child and carries stiff penalties for physical injury caused by such exposure. Finally, the legislation includes a measure to ensure high levels of participation in Levi's Call, Georgia 's Amber Alert.
Creates Felony Offense for Criminally Negligent Behavior Toward Children
The Governor's child protection legislation codifies the definition of "criminal negligence" that has been established in Georgia 's case law and amends the current cruelty to children statute so as to add criminally negligent behavior as a new second degree offense of cruelty to children. This is a felony offense providing for imprisonment by not less than one year nor more than ten years. The current second degree offense (O.C.G.A. 16-5-70 ) becomes a third degree offense.
Georgia is the only state in the nation without a child abuse felony statute that includes criminally negligent behavior. The legislation will close a gap in the state's current criminal law and will provide prosecutors with an appropriate tool to charge individuals whose criminal negligence causes cruel or excessive mental or physical pain to a child.
Examples where this law might apply include a child that dies from heat exhaustion after being left in an automobile for an extended period or young children left at home for the weekend unattended and unsupervised.
Stronger Punishment for Methamphetamine in the Presence of a Child
The Governor's legislation creates the offense of causing or permitting a child to be present where any person is manufacturing or possessing methamphetamine or a chemical substance intended to be used in the manufacture of methamphetamine. This offense is a felony punishable by imprisonment for two to fifteen years. The bill makes the same conduct punishable by five to twenty years if the child suffers serious injury from such contact.
Children who live at or visit sites during the production of methamphetamine are exposed to immediate dangers and may face acute health and safety risks. These children may be exposed to chemical contamination, abuse, neglect, and other risks. In addition, the manufacture of methamphetamine may involve hazards such as fires and explosions. Children are particularly vulnerable to the health effects associated with methamphetamine labs.
According to the U.S. Department of Justice, there were 15,353 methamphetamine lab related incidents in the United States, with 2,077 involving the presence of children. ( U.S. Department of Justice, Office for Victims of Crime (OVC) Bulletin, June 2003)
Enhances the Effectiveness of Georgia 's Levi Call
The Governor's legislation exempts media from liability for the broadcast of information included in a Levi's Call to help ensure that every effort has been made for the prompt and safe return of any abducted child. Levi's Call is a voluntary partnership between law enforcement, emergency management, and the media to activate an urgent bulletin in child abduction cases.
A Levi's Call is initiated by local law enforcement notifying the Georgia Bureau of Investigation (GBI) of abduction. After verifying that the use of an alert is justified, the GBI drafts an alert bulletin and requests activation of the Emergency Alert System (EAS) through the Georgia Emergency Management Agency (GEMA). GEMA transmits the bulletin via the EAS to media who are requested to run the alert at least twice the first hour and once every hour for the next three hours. Media participation is voluntary.
Before Levi's Call can be activated, the following criteria must be met: there must be a confirmed child abduction; the circumstances surrounding the abduction must indicate that the child is in danger of harm or death; the child must be 18 or younger; there must be enough descriptive information to believe that an immediate broadcast alert will help; and the case must be entered into the National Crime Information Center (NCIC) database.
Levi's Call was established January 1, 2002, and is named after Levi Frady (March 6, 1986 - October 22, 1997). After a day of playing with his friends, Frady was headed to his rural Forsyth County home less than a mile away. He was abducted, driven to a neighboring county, brutally murdered, and his body was found in a wooded area the next day. His killer(s) were never identified.
|Background briefing document on the Governor's child protection legislation (pdf).|