(NASHVILLE, TN), January 19, 2012 — State Senator Ken Yager (R-Harriman) and Representative Ryan Haynes (R-Knoxville) today announced they have filed legislation to disqualify elected or appointed officials from receiving judicial diversion for crimes committed during their term of office.
Judicial diversion is the process in criminal law when a person pleads guilty to a crime and can later have the charge removed (or expunged) from their record following a period of probation. It is granted by the judge, hence its name “judicial.”
“The public office is a public trust,” said Senator Yager, who is Chairman of the Senate State and Local Government Committee. “Public officials ought to be held to a higher standard.”
A person is eligible for judicial diversion in Tennessee if they do not have a previous class A misdemeanor, felony conviction, or never received diversion or had their record expunged before. Those charged with a class A felony, a class B felony, a sexual offense, or a DUI are not eligible for judicial diversion under state law. Senate Bill 2566 would simply add a criminal offense committed by an official in the executive, legislative or judicial branch to the list of those which are ineligible for judicial diversion, if the crime was committed in their official capacity or involve the duties of their office.
“Accountability is a term that is thrown around a lot in public service these days. Unfortunately, not many take it seriously and that has to change,” said Haynes. “A law like this would go a long way towards restoring the faith Tennesseans once had in their elected officials. We must hold ourselves to a higher standard and I think this is a strong first step towards raising the bar in Tennessee.”
“Criminal acts conducted by public officials during the course of duty should not be eligible for judicial diversion. We must hold our public officials accountable for the trust they have been given. This legislation helps ensure that,” Yager concluded.