After a lengthy discussion detailing the positive ways this legislation will aid victims of crime and families of victims, the chairman of the House Judiciary Committee successfully passed HB 401, “The Exclusionary Rule Reform Act,” through the full House. The final vote, 89-9, showed the measure has strong bipartisan support.
Many members have been strong when it comes to protecting the rights and security of victims. Recent news reports have shown an alarming trend with violent criminals taking advantage of a loophole in Tennessee’s legal code.
HB 401 creates a “good faith exception” to the Exclusionary Rule so courts will have a legitimate alternative to allow evidence to be heard in a case and sets out a clear definition so there will be clarity on the issue.
The sponsor proudly stated, “Criminals and defense attorneys have taken advantage of this loophole for years causing violent offenders, including murderers, to be released because of small clerical errors. In an effort to protect society and honor victims, I am proud to say we have closed this loophole.”
As context, one news report revealed a convicted drug dealer serving 29 years for drug dealing and weapons charges will be set free because of a minor clerical error on a search warrant. When the typographical error was discovered, the Criminal Court of Appeals ruled it constituted a “fatal flaw” and all the evidence gathered in the execution of the investigation must be discarded. The flaw was a time signature that read 10:35 p.m. when the warrant was actually written at 10:35 a.m. HB 401 will close these types of loopholes for criminals. The Senate plans to take up its version of this bill soon.
Sex Offender Registry
Earlier this session, House members overwhelmingly passed a reform to the criminal code that closes a loophole that allows sexual offenders to find refuge. The bill requires all sexual offenders who are incarcerated, but who have not yet registered as a sexual offender or violent sexual offender, to be registered in the institution in which they are incarcerated by no later than Aug. 1, 2011.
Effectively, the bill increases public safety as it will catalogue and publicize the sexual offenders around the state. It ensures those who have been convicted of a sexual offense have to sign a TBI registration form. The TBI then takes the person’s information and places it into the sexual offender database.
The sponsor of the legislation stated, “This is an important move for our General Assembly. It reinforces our commitment to increase safety for Tennessee families. I have seen the destruction and detrimental effects sexual abuse can have on victims. The fact our law currently allows some criminals to legally continue harassing their victims is unacceptable. Our majority is committed to preventing further victimization of Tennesseans by the worst kind of criminals.”
‘Bath salt’ drugs
The House approved HB 457, legislation that cracks down on derivatives of the deadly drug meth, otherwise known as “bath salts” or “plant foods.”
A wave of illicit drug production and illegal use has swept through parts of Tennessee where countless residents have been rushed to the hospital from the adverse effects of the drug. Various news outlets have even reported on many deaths directly linked to the rise in drug use associated with these ingredients.
After passage of the legislation, the author of the legislation said, “I’m proud to have the unanimous support of my colleagues on this important issue.” He concluded, “Families in my district and across the state are being torn apart because of drug abuse. We cannot let this continue. I believe passage of this legislation moves us in the right direction for combating meth production in Tennessee. But we must do more. I will continue working with members of the General Assembly to end the emotional toll and physical destruction meth is having on the lives of Tennesseans.”
Crackdown on identity theft
The House approved HB 151 in a huge bipartisan fashion 98-0. The measure ensures Tennesseans who are victims of identity theft are able to file charges in Tennessee against the individual who steals their information.
Currently in Tennessee, every person is liable to punishment by the laws of this state for an offense committed here. But for purposes of identity theft, there are some legal questions for the purposes of prosecution of a case.
This bill clarifies that if a victim of identity theft resides or is found in Tennessee, an essential element of the offense is therefore committed in this state and a defendant is subject to prosecution in this state, regardless of whether that individual was ever actually in Tennessee. Venue for the offense of identity theft would be in any county where an essential element of the offense was committed.
Following passage of his legislation, the bill sponsor stated, “With our world becoming more and more connected by technology, identity theft is on the rise at an alarming rate. Unfortunately, our laws are not always as up-to-date as they should be for these types of crimes. This bill is a much-needed clarification of the law that will ensure Tennesseans have a proper recourse should someone steal their personal information.”
He concluded, “This bill makes sure our citizens are protected by Tennessee law, no matter who steals their identity.”
Representatives advanced a measure in response to a recent upswing in the reports of looting taking place following this spring’s tragic storms that crossed the South and tore through Tennessee.
HB 1946, known as the “retail theft” bill, provides a new offense whereby courts may require a criminal to perform public service as designated by the court. The offender would be required to perform at least the number of hours of public service necessary to satisfy the fine assessed by the court at minimum wage.
The conservative sponsor of the legislation represents one of the areas devastated by the storms. He remarked, “Simply put, we crafted this bill to crack down on looters. These are some of the most despicable criminals who hurt families in their time of most need. Instead of just throwing them behind bars, this legislation ensures they are put to work rebuilding our communities and doing hard work to make up for their unacceptable crimes.”