NASHVILLE — Numerous anti-crime bills are among a host of new laws scheduled to take effect on July 1.
The General Assembly passed several bills cracking down on illegal drugs, sex offenders, gang violence, terrorism, and domestic violence before adjourning the 2011 legislative session that will take effect as the new month begins, as well as two key bills dealing with the court process.
“We made significant progress in attacking crime this year,” said Senate Judiciary Chairman Mae Beavers (R-Mt. Juliet), whose Committee hears legislation dealing with crime, corrections and the court process. “We passed several major public safety initiatives that will take effect in July, including legislation to fight meth use in our state, and new laws to tip the scales towards the side of justice for victims of crime.”
Beavers represents Senate District 17, which includes Cannon County.
Among legislation set to take effect at the beginning of the month is a new law sponsored by Beavers that broadens the offenses for assault and criminal homicide committed against pregnant women to include the fetus, regardless of the viability of the victim. The new law ensures that perpetrators are punished for offenses committed against the unborn child.
Senator Beavers also sponsored legislation that stiffens penalties for making methamphetamines in the presence of a child and implements a statewide electronic tracking system to curb meth production in the state. The bill also sets amounts of pseudoephedrine that can be purchased and strengthens penalties against those convicted of smurfing, or shopping for the product in multiple locations. Although the bill takes effect on July 1, pharmacies have until January 1, 2012 to connect to the system.
A separate bill passed this year ensures that those who shop in multiple counties for meth precursors can be appropriately prosecuted for the crime in any county where the purchase was made. Another measure gives consumers important health information regarding vehicles which has been used in the manufacture of methamphetamines.
Beavers was the co-sponsor of legislation set to take effect in July to extend the class of drugs under Tennessee law which is subject to a Class A misdemeanor offense for offenders who produce, manufacture, distribute, or possess the hallucinogenic plant salvia divinorum. The bill extends the class to include the active chemical ingredient in the plant or other synthetic cannabinoids. Besides the danger of addiction, tests have shown that smoking the drug can cause undesirable side affects on the heart, circulation and nervous system, in some cases leading to unconsciousness.
In other key anti-crime action, legislation is set to take effect on July 1 that eliminates pretrial diversion for the most dangerous criminals in Tennessee. No felony crimes will be eligible for pre-trial diversion under the legislation.
The court process was also the focus legislation that will be enacted on July 1, which is known as the “common sense” or “good faith exception” to the “exclusionary rule” regarding suppression of evidence under the fourth amendment, or unreasonable search and seizure. The new law allows a judge to give a jury access to evidence or facts obtained as a result of a search or seizure which contains a minor technical error.
The measure attempts to balance the scales of justice to a standard embraced by the U.S. Supreme Court in United States v. Leon and Herring v. United States, which was the law in Tennessee prior to 1979. That standard allows the judge and jury to weigh all the facts and still administer justice in an objective manner.
Beavers co-sponsored a new anti-terrorism law due to take effect on July 1 that updates and strengthens the Tennessee Terrorism Prevention Act that was passed shortly after the 9-11 terrorist attacks. The “Material Support to Designated Entities Act of 2011” makes the provision of “material support” a Class A felony and helps to close the prevention gap left by the 2002 statute.
“These are a few of the key anti-crime bills we passed,” added Beavers. “Some of the measures passed in our 2011 legislative session had been pending for many years. I am very pleased with the legislation passed this year, especially considering the tight budget constraints we faced.”