D.A. believes new laws will help Georgians

Published 3:57 pm Friday, August 28, 2009

District Attorney Joe Mulholland visited the Lions Club this past Wednesday to share a few changes to Georgia law that he believes will improve the quality of life in the state.

Mulholland is the district attorney for the South Georgia Judicial District, which includes Baker, Calhoun, Decatur, Grady and Mitchell counties. Among his numerous civic activities include serving on a panel comprised of district attorneys who work with state legislators to draft new laws.

A change that will have broad impact on Georgia’s court system is a new law that reforms procedures associated with capital punishment cases. The law will now allow prosecutors to seek a sentence of life imprisonment, with or without parole, for convicted criminals without seeking the death penalty, which was a prerequisite in the past, Mulholland said.

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Prosecutors hope the change will help reduce the cost and time associated with prosecuting the most serious offenders. The law also prohibits any early parole for serious violent felons sentenced to life imprisonment with the possibility of parole until they have served a minimum of 30 years behind bars.

The prosecuting attorneys’ legislative panel also helped sponsor a change to Georgia’s kidnapping law, which clarifies how a person may be charged with the offense.

A 2008 Supreme Court of Georgia case ruled that a person could not be charged with kidnapping if they had only forced another person to move a slight distance against their will, such as between two rooms. Law enforcement and prosecuting attorneys objected, and the new law states that kidnapping can now apply to any distance, no matter how slight.

A third change in Georgia law made during the last legislative term was one related to recycling of metals.

Mulholland said copper thieves had hit the area hard in recent years after the value of recycled copper rose dramatically. Farmers and homeowners alike had suffered damages after thieves took copper from pivot irrigation systems and stripped them from air-conditioning units and electrical systems, the district attorney said.

A new law now requires recycling companies to keep records of all transactions and make copies of customers’ photo IDs.

Another component of the law, which Mulholland said could face a constitutional challenge, would make persons liable for the total damage they caused in the process of stealing copper. That requirement could result in more people being convicted of felony theft, instead of just a misdemeanor, if they cause enough damage.

“When thieves take copper off the [irrigation] pivots, they’ve also ruined the farmer’s crops because he can’t get water out of the pivot,” Mulholland said.

Mulholland said he believed persons convicted of copper theft should be required to pay restitution for the damage they caused after being released from prison.

Information about Mulholland’s office and the judicial circuit he represents can be found at southgeorgiada.com and southgeorgiajudicialcircuit.com, respectively.