Capitol Hill Review: Tennessee lawmakers pass multiple crime bills
by Eric Watson
Oct 07, 2012 | 733 views | 0 0 comments | 2 2 recommendations | email to a friend | print
Legislation that gives the Tennessee Department of Corrections the authority to supervise probation and parole services is among the many law-related bills to pass in this year’s 107th session of the Tennessee General Assembly.

The new law aims to provide a seamless one-person contact for offenders throughout the entire criminal justice system. This bill was part of the administration’s top-to-bottom review of departments and agencies conducted last year. The consolidation of these agencies will reduce the competition for providers and allow for continuity of a single point of contact. Forty states operate under a consolidated system, which is widely recognized as the best practice in corrections. The existing organizational structure that actually performs under the Board of Pardons and Parole will remain intact upon transfer to the Department of Corrections.

Other pieces of enacted legislation of which I want you to be aware include:

1. Jaclyn’s Law/911 Responders: Lawmakers voted to make it clear that emergency responders have immunity if they force entry into a home after someone calls 911 and then doesn 't answer the door. The measure was named “Jaclyn's Law” for a California woman who died after first responders failed to use forcible entry because of liability concerns. The legislation was brought to lawmakers by the woman’s sister who is a Tennessee resident. The bill seeks to clear up any grey area regarding the right of first responders to force entry after receiving a 911 call to render emergency medical assistance if no one answers the door, without fear of criminal or civil charges.

2. Ponzi Schemes/Stiffer Punishment: Legislation was approved during the 2012 legislative session that allows District Attorneys in Tennessee to more effectively prosecute and punish those who defraud multiple victims through Ponzi schemes or other fraudulent investment practices. Before, Tennessee law would only have allowed criminals like Bernie Madoff who defraud multiple victims to be punished by eight to 30 years in prison and a fine of up to $25,000. This bill allows prosecutors to aggregate the sum in order to provide stiffer punishment when it totals $250,000 or more. The new law makes the crime a Class A felony subject to 15 to 60 years in prison and a fine of up to $50,000.

3. Illegal Aliens/Risk of Flight: The General Assembly voted to approve a measure that allows the court clerk to set bail for traffic violations at a higher amount than normally permitted for a defendant who is unlawfully present in the U.S. and is deemed a risk of flight.

4. Illegal Aliens/Risk of Flight: Similarly, the Legislature passed a bill requiring an officer to arrest a driver involved in an accident that results in serious bodily injury or death when the driver lacks a valid driver’s license and evidence of financial responsibility. House Bill 2466 prohibits the issuance of a citation in lieu of an arrest in such circumstances due to the risk of flight. The bill is named the “Ricky Otts Act.” Mr. Otts was killed by an unlicensed driver who was suspected of being in the country illegally and failed to appear in court after the deadly crash.

5. Aggravated Rape/Multiple Offenders: The General Assembly approved major sex offender legislation which requires a person convicted of aggravated rape on or after July 1, 2012, to serve 100 percent of the sentence imposed by the court undiminished by any sentence-reduction credits the person may be eligible for or earn. The new law redefines “multiple rapist” to mean a person convicted two or more times of rape, or a person convicted of at least one time of aggravated rape and at least one time of rape.

6. Sex Offenders/DNA: State lawmakers voted to approve House Bill 2854 which provides for a procedure to ensure law enforcement has a DNA sample for a sex offender when that person is on the Registry but is not incarcerated.

7. Sex Offenders/Indecent Exposure: House Bill 3257 was approved by the General Assembly this year, revising the punishment for the offenses of public indecency and indecent exposure. It specifies that indecent exposure would be a Class E felony if the defendant is 18 years of age or older and the victim is under 13 years of age and the offense occurs on the property of any public school, private or parochial school, licensed day-care center or other child-care facility during a time at which children are likely to be present. It also provides that if a person is charged with such Class E felony offense and the court grants judicial diversion, the court must order, as a condition of probation, that the person be enrolled in a satellite-based monitoring program for the full extent of the person's term of probation in a manner consistent with the requirements of the Tennessee Serious and Violent Sex Offender Monitoring Pilot Project Act.

8. Sexual Exploitation of Children: State legislators voted to remove the statute of limitations in certain cases involving child rape and sexual exploitation. The bill provides that a person may be prosecuted, tried and punished for producing obscene material, sexual exploitation of a minor, aggravated sexual exploitation of a minor or especially aggravated sexual exploitation of a minor, no later than 25 years from the date the child becomes 18 years of age.

9. Sex Offenders/Registration: Legislation was passed calling for judicial forfeiture of a registered sex offender’s automobile if he or she is found to be in violation of the Tennessee Sexual Offender and Violent Sexual Offender Registration, Verification and Tracking Act. House Bill 3 allows judges to consider forfeiture when the registered offender violates the terms of the Registry Act by being at a day care, school or other place in which he or she is banned.

10. Minor Victim/Undercover Officer: Members of the General Assembly passed legislation to correct an error in current law to ensure that prosecution and conviction are authorized for displaying sexual activity to a minor via electronic communication. The law would apply regardless of whether the victim is a minor or an undercover police officer posing as a minor.

11. Solicitation of a Minor/Electronic Means: House Bill 2656 was passed on final consideration adding new definitions to the offenses of soliciting sexual exploitation of a minor and exploitation of a minor by electronic means to ensure it is covered under Tennessee law.