New tough-on-crime laws in effect
Published 4:32 pm Thursday, July 7, 2022
On July 1, several new laws took effect to protect victims of crime and crack down on violent criminals. The changes to Tennessee’s criminal justice system include establishing truth and transparency in criminal sentencing. In addition, other new laws strengthen penalties for violent offenses to maintain public safety.
Major Truth in Sentencing legislation went into effect on July 1 that requires a person convicted of certain violent offenses to serve 100% of their sentence before becoming eligible for release. It ensures criminals convicted of attempted first degree murder, second degree murder, vehicular homicide, especially aggravated kidnapping, especially aggravated robbery, carjacking, and especially aggravated burglary will serve 100% of their sentence undiminished by any sentence reduction credits earned.
Under the new law, sponsored by Lt. Governor Randy McNally and Senator Jon Lundberg (R-Bristol), a person convicted of one of these eight offenses could still earn credits that can be used for increased privileges, reduced security classification, or for any purpose other than the reduction of their sentence.
“Truth in Sentencing is vital legislation that protects victims and provides true accountability for those who commit crimes,” said McNally. “The clarity Truth in Sentencing provides will serve as a critical deterrent against violent offenders. The costs associated with the law are well worth the peace of mind offered to victims and the overall boost to public safety. Tennesseans across the political spectrum want law and order in Tennessee. This legislation will go a long way toward providing it.”
To continue lawmakers’ efforts to protect victims of crime, victims and their families are now better informed about how much time an offender will serve at the time of sentencing. A new law, also sponsored by McNally and Senator John Stevens (R-Huntingdon), requires all Tennessee courts to place on the record the estimated number of years and months to be served before a criminal is eligible for parole, as well as the reason for the sentence and enhancements. Currently, when a criminal defendant is being sentenced, it is unknown when that criminal defendant is going to be released unless they are required to serve a 100% sentence without credits.
“Transparency in Sentencing is necessary to create true accountability for the criminal justice system,” said Stevens. “Victims and the general public need to have all information possible. This transparency will help mitigate any false sense of security victims might previously have felt after hearing a ‘full’ sentence imposed.”
Protection of children is the impetus of another new law now in effect. This measure, sponsored by Senator Dawn White (R-Murfreesboro), enhances the penalty from a Class A misdemeanor to a Class E felony for a person operating an unlicensed child care facility and found guilty of abuse, neglect or endangerment.
The law is in response to an incident in Morristown, TN where an unlicensed childcare facility was neglecting children, but criminal charges could not be pursued because no physical harm was done to the children.
Other new laws were written to maintain law and order and punish criminals who commit heinous acts. Some of those laws are:
Legislation sponsored by Senator Paul Rose (R-Covington) requiring criminals convicted of first-degree murder, the perpetration or attempted perpetration of rape, rape of a child and aggravated rape of a child to be sentenced to death or life in prison without the possibility of parole.
A statute also sponsored by Rose to crack down on drive-by shootings. The new law will impose stricter penalties one classification higher on criminals convicted of aggravated assault that involved the use of a deadly weapon if the violation was committed by a firearm discharged from within a motor vehicle.
A bill sponsored by Lundberg to prohibit a sexual offender from renting or offering to rent a swimming pool, hot tub or other body of water used for swimming. Violation of this new law is a Class A misdemeanor.
The Joe Clyde Daniels Act, sponsored by Senator Kerry Roberts (R-Springfield), which makes it harder for convicted murderers to be granted parole if they do not disclose the location of their victims remains. It helps ensure victims can receive a proper burial. The bill was prompted by the disappearance of 5-year-old Joe Clyde Daniels from his home in Dickson on April 4, 2018. His father, Joseph Daniels, was convicted of the murder in June. However, the child’s remains have never been found.