(NASHVILLE, TN), June 20, 2011 — Numerous anti-crime bills are among a host of new laws scheduled to take effect on July 1. The General Assembly passed several bills cracking down on illegal drugs, sex offenders, gang violence, terrorism, and domestic violence before adjourning the 2011 legislative session that will take effect as the new month begins, as well as two key bills dealing with the court process.
“We made significant progress in attacking crime this year,” said Senate Judiciary Chairman Mae Beavers (R-Mt. Juliet), whose Committee hears legislation dealing with crime, corrections and the court process. “We passed several major public safety initiatives that will take effect in July, including legislation to fight meth use in our state and new laws to tip the scales towards the side of justice for victims of crime.”
Key anti-drug bills passed this year includes a new law sponsored by Senator Beavers that stiffens penalties for making methamphetamines in the presence of a child and implements a statewide electronic tracking system to curb meth production in the state. The bill also sets amounts of pseudoephedrine that can be purchased and strengthens penalties against those convicted of smurfing, or shopping for the product in multiple locations. Although the bill takes effect on July 1, pharmacies have until January 1, 2012 to connect to the system.
A separate bill, sponsored by Senator Dolores Gresham (R-Somerville), which takes effect on July 1, ensures that those who shop in multiple counties for meth precursors can be appropriately prosecuted for the crime in any county where the purchase was made. Another measure, sponsored by Senator Jim Tracy (R-Shelbyville), gives consumers important health information regarding vehicles which has been used in the manufacture of methamphetamines.
Drug felons will find it more difficult to get welfare benefits under a bill passed this year and which takes effect on July 1. The new law, sponsored by Senator Tracy, prohibits an adult convicted of a felony for possession, use, or distribution of a controlled substance from being eligible to receive Families First program benefits. The new law applies to welfare recipients convicted on or after July 1, 2011 and extends for a period of three years unless the individual receives treatment for substance abuse.
Major legislation, sponsored by Senator Ken Yager (R-Harriman), is set to take effect on July 1 eliminating pretrial diversion for the most dangerous criminals in Tennessee. No felony crimes would be eligible for pre-trial diversion under the legislation.
“The new law centers on defendant accountability in the judicial system and also speaks to the constitutional rights of victims to have their voices heard,” said Senator Yager. “Under previous law, victims had no voice in a pre-trial diversion situation.”
The court process was also the focus of a new law which will be enacted into law on July 1, which is known as the “common sense” or “good faith exception” to the “exclusionary rule” regarding suppression of evidence under the fourth amendment, or unreasonable search and seizure. The new law allows a judge to give a jury access to evidence or facts obtained as a result of a search or seizure which contains a minor technical error.
“This new law attempts to balance the scales of justice to a standard embraced by the U.S. Supreme Court in United States v. Leon and Herring v. United States to allow the judge and jury to weigh all the facts and still administer justice in an objective manner,” said Senator Randy McNally (R-Oak Ridge), who sponsored the bill.
In other crime-related action, legislation is set to take effect to ensure that random killings, like that of the “Beltway Sniper,” are subject to the death penalty in Tennessee. The bill, sponsored by Senator Mike Bell (R-Riceville) adds “murder at random” to the list of statutory aggravating circumstances for the purpose of sentencing.
In legislation combating gang violence, a new law takes effect on July 1 which authorizes judges to allow a district attorney to use a wiretap when the interception may provide evidence of criminal gang-related activities in aggravated burglaries. This legislation, sponsored by Senator Doug Overbey (R-Marvyille), adds home invasions to the list of gang-related activities where a wiretap may be authorized.
The legislature passed an anti-terrorism bill due to take effect on July 1 that updates and strengthens the Tennessee Terrorism Prevention Act that was passed shortly after the 9-11 terrorist attacks. The “Material Support to Designated Entities Act of 2011,” sponsored by Senator Bill Ketron (R-Murfreesboro) makes the provision of “material support” a Class A felony and helps to close the prevention gap left by the 2002 statute.
Domestic violence legislation, sponsored by Senate Speaker Pro Tempore Jamie Woodson (R-Knoxville), takes effect on July 1 defining and clarifying the crime of attempted strangulation. The new law provides clarity regarding this lethal force, which is one of the best predictors of future homicide in domestic violence cases.
A bill approved this year set to take effect in July broadens the offenses for assault and criminal homicide committed against pregnant women to include the fetus, regardless of the viability of the victim. The new law, sponsored by Senator Beavers, ensures that perpetrators are punished for offenses committed against the unborn child.
Several bills are set to take effect in July strengthening penalties against sex offenders, including:
A bill sponsored by Senator Overbey to ensure that law enforcement officers posing as minors can be used to prosecute cases where sexual predators use electronic means to solicit those under the age of 18.
A bill sponsored by Senator Brian Kelsey (R-Germantown) to add juveniles convicted of the most violent sexual offenses to the state’s Sex Offender Registry.
A new law sponsored by Senator Bell to require registered sexual offenders setting specific standards regarding notification to their registering law enforcement agency before they leave the country and upon re-entering.
- Legislation sponsored by Senator Tracy to ensure that an adult authority figure who has inappropriate sexual contact with a minor child by touching or kissing the child on the lips, is held accountable for his or her actions.
- Legislation sponsored by Senator Gresham to prevent criminals or sex offenders from serving in housing facilities in Tennessee’s colleges and Universities.
“Some of these anti-crime bills had been pending for many years,” added Beavers. “I am very pleased with the legislation passed this year, especially considering tight budget constraints we faced.”