NASHVILLE — The full Senate unanimously approved legislation this week to enhance penalties against those convicted of intentionally selecting their victim because of his or her status as a uniformed law enforcement officer or member of the armed forces. Senate Bill 1342 was inspired by the many brave men and women in uniform who have lost their lives, were injured or targeted simply because of their jobs as protectors of the community.
“Thousands of men and women voluntarily put their uniforms on every day to protect and serve our communities and this nation,” said Senator Paul Bailey (R-Sparta), sponsor of the bill. “It is deeply disturbing when they are intentionally targeted because of their chosen profession. This legislation sends a clear message that these dangerous criminals reprehensible behavior will not be tolerated and that they will be held accountable to the fullest extent of the law.”
Under the bill, the enhancement factor would be considered by the court at the time of sentencing. The law also applies to members of the Tennessee National Guard.
In addition, the State Senate passed legislation adding penalties to current law which forbids the release of private information regarding law enforcement officers to protect them and their families from being targeted. Presently, it is unlawful to release nonpublic information regarding police officers, such as a street address, city, state, and zip code, but there is no punishment attached to the crime. Senate Bill 467, sponsored by Senator Mike Bell (R-Riceville), makes the offense a Class B misdemeanor, punishable by up to a $500 fine for the negligent unauthorized release of an officer’s residential address. If the release is intentional, the crime would be punishable as a Class A misdemeanor.
“Our men and women in blue are laying their lives on the line every day for us,” said Senator Bell. “It’s time we as a state recognize that fact by adding greater protections in the law for those who sacrifice their safety to protect us.”
Both bills now go to the governor for his signature. When signed, they will become effective on July 1.