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Governor Perdue Signs Child Protection Legislation

Friday, April 9, 2004  Contact: Office of Communications 404-651-7774


New Laws Create Stronger Penalties for Reckless Caregivers, Improve Levi's Call

Atlanta - Governor Sonny Perdue signed into law today two pieces of legislation that will help keep Georgia's children safe. Governor Perdue was joined by First Lady Mary Perdue, Lieutenant Governor Mark Taylor, and Wendi Clifton of Prevent Child Abuse Georgia. Both bills were major pieces of the Governor's legislative agenda.

"Mary and I care deeply about the health and welfare of the children in this state. We believe that it is our moral obligation to work every day to improve their lives," said Governor Sonny Perdue. "Signing of this legislation marks the end of a long struggle to strengthen Georgia 's child abuse statute. As I said when I introduced this legislation, children will now be better protected from drug addicts, kidnappers, and reckless caregivers."

The first bill, Governor Perdue'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 no longer the only state in the nation without a child abuse felony statute that includes criminally negligent behavior. The legislation closes 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.

The Governor's Child Protection legislation also 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.

The second bill, Levi's Call, exempts media from liability for the broadcast of information included in a Levi's Call , Georgia 's version of the Amber Alert. This will help facilitate 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.