(NASHVILLE, TN), May 25, 2011 – Before adjourning the 2011 legislative session on Saturday, the Tennessee General Assembly approved two strong anti-crime bills sponsored by Senator Doug Overbey (R-Maryville), including legislation closing a loophole in state law that has allowed sexual predators to escape prosecution on a technicality. Senate Bill 69, adds wording to Tennessee law to ensure that law enforcement posing as minors can be used to prosecute cases where sexual predators use electronic means to solicit those under the age of 18. The companion bill in the House, House Bill 154, was sponsored by Rep. Bob Ramsey (R-Maryville).
“Law enforcement should have the ability to conduct an operation to catch sexual predators who prey on our children here in Tennessee,” said Senator Overbey. “This bill closes the loophole in state law to ensure these predators are prosecuted regardless of the mode of communication they use to solicit a child.”
Currently it is a Class E felony for a person, 18 years of age or older, to intentionally persuade a minor to engage in sexual activity by electronic communication, mail or Internet service, or to display pornographic material through these means. If the minor is less than 13 years of age, a violation is a Class C felony.
“Our laws must keep up with the new technology used by sexual predators every day in America to victimize children,” added Overbey. “This legislation closes the loophole so our law enforcement officers can successfully prosecute offenders of this terrible crime.”
The General Assembly also approved Senate Bill 1456, sponsored by Overbey, to authorize judges to allow a district attorney to use a wiretap when the interception may provide evidence of a criminal gang-related activities. Currently, wiretap authority is only allowed when criminal homicide or drug felonies are involved. This legislation would also add home invasions to the list of gang-related activities where a wiretap may be authorized.
“Criminal gangs are present in many communities in our state, as too many citizens live under constant threat of home invasion by these groups,” added Overbey. “This bill will give law enforcement the opportunity to work on the preventative end of this crime and hopefully deter burglaries and the more serious threat of bodily harm to the victims in their own homes at the hands of these gangs.”