New laws on crime, sentencing to take effect Sunday

Published 9:02 am Thursday, December 29, 2016

New Laws

When the new year rolls around on Sunday several new laws will roll onto the books in Tennessee, many of which deal with how courts sentence those convicted of crimes.
The largest part of the new sentencing laws come under the Public Safety Act of 2016 which was drafted by the State Legislature in response to work done by a special Task Force on Sentencing and Recidivism established by Gov. Bill Haslam in 2014.
The Task Force released a report last year detailing recommendations to reduce crime and address the growth of prison and jail populations across the state. Many of the Task Force’s recommendations were implemented as part of a multi-year public safety action plan developed by the Governor’s Public Safety Cabinet.
One of the major components of the Public Safety Act of 2016 establishes mandatory minimum sentences for those convicted of three or more charges of aggravated burglary, especially aggravated burglary or drug trafficking.
“The primary duty of government is to protect its citizens,” said State Sen. Brian Kelsey, who served on the Task Force and was one of the legislation’s primary sponsors. “This new law will keep people safer in their homes by increasing the time served by those who repeatedly break into homes.”
Under the new law, a person convicted of a third or subsequent offense of aggravated burglary, especially aggravated burglary, and Class A, B, and C level felonies for the manufacture or sale of controlled substances would have to serve a mandatory minimum of 85 percent of their sentence before becoming eligible for parole.
Parts of the legislation package also address domestic violence crimes.
“Unfortunately, Tennessee is ranked among the worst states for its high incidence of domestic violence,” Kelsey said. “This legislation makes significant changes to help protect Tennesseans from domestic violence.”
The law which will take effect on Jan. 1, 2017, will allow a law enforcement officer to seek an order of protection on behalf of a domestic violence victim.
Also under the new law, if a law enforcement officer makes an arrest for a crime involving domestic violence where there is probable cause to believe the alleged assailant used, or attempted to use, deadly force against a domestic violence victim then an order of protection will automatically be issued.
A portion of the new law also deals with repeat offenders of domestic violence crime.
The new statute provides that a third and subsequent conviction on a charge of domestic violence becomes a Class E felony as defined in state law. Previously, domestic assault convictions were misdemeanor offenses regardless of how many convictions a person had.
Also under this portion of the law, a person convicted of a third or subsequent offense of domestic assault is punishable by a fine of not less than $1,100 and not more than $5,000 and by “confinement in the county jail for not less than 90 consecutive days, nor more than 11 months, 29 days.”
Other new laws regarding crime and sentencing which will take effect on Jan. 1, 2017 include:
• Probation and Parole — As enacted, the new law makes a person who commits vehicular homicide where alcohol or drugs were involved ineligible for probation.
• Sentencing — A new law creates a new sentencing enhancement factor when the defendant committed the offense of robbery, aggravated robbery, or especially aggravated robbery on the premises of a licensed pharmacy in an effort to unlawfully obtain, sell, give, or exchange a controlled substance, controlled substance analogue, or other illegal drug.
• Driver Licenses — As enacted, deletes a requirement in state law that a person’s driver’s license be suspended for an additional like period if convicted of driving on a suspended or revoked license. It also allows a court to order issuance of a restricted driver license contingent on the person participating in a payment plan for any unpaid fines or court costs.

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