Several new Tennessee laws went into effect Jan. 1, with the biggest change impacting public safety laws.
Probation and Parole: According to Chapter 1021, Bill SB0035, as enacted, the amendment makes a person who commits vehicular homicide where alcohol or drugs were involved ineligible for probation.
Sentencing: According to Chapter 1025, Bill SB0593, as enacted, the amendment 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: According to Chapter 748, Bill HB1495, as enacted, the amendment deletes requirement that a person’s driver license be suspended for an additional like period if convicted of driving on a suspended or revoked license and allows the court to order issuance of a restricted driver license contingent on the person participating in a payment plan for any unpaid fines or costs.
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.
“This new law will keep people safer in their homes by increasing the time served by those who repeatedly break into homes,” said Senator Brian Kelsey, who chairs the Senate Judiciary Committee.
The new law sets the mandatory minimum period of incarceration to 85 percent for third and subsequent convictions for aggravated burglary, especially aggravated burglary, and Class A, B, and C felonies for the sale, manufacture, and distribution of controlled substances. It also changes the felony thresholds for property theft for a Class A misdemeanor from the $500 to $1,000, Class E felony from $500-$1,000 to a range of $1,000-$2,500, and a Class D felony from $1,000-10,000 to a range of $2,500-$10,000.
Domestic Violence: The new law allows a law enforcement officer to seek an order of protection on behalf of a domestic abuse victim. If a law enforcement officer makes an arrest for a crime involving domestic abuse, then an automatic order of protection will be issued under the new law when there is probable cause to believe the alleged assailant used or attempted to use deadly force against a domestic violence victim. A hearing should be held within 15 days of the automatic order of protection being issued.
“Unfortunately, Tennessee is ranked among the worst states for its high incidence of domestic violence,” Senator Kelsey said. “This legislation makes significant changes to help protect Tennesseans from domestic violence.
The new statute provides that a third and subsequent domestic violence conviction becomes a Class E felony. Third and subsequent domestic violence convictions were previously a misdemeanor. This change maintains the current minimum 90-day sentence for a domestic violence conviction.
Another new Tennessee law allows for the manufacture and sale of beer and cider with a higher alcohol content. Prior to Jan. 1, the limit was 6.2 percent, but the new law raises it to 10.1 percent.
Handgun carry permit: The fees for a lifetime handgun carry permit will decrease from $500 to $200 for existing handgun carry permit holders. Initial applicants will pay $315. Additionally, a different law will lower the age for receiving a handgun carry permit from 21 years of age to 18 for active duty military or honorably discharged veterans.
Tennessee students will be required to pass a United States civics test before graduating high school.