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New law introduces major changes to Tennessee's criminal code

Now that 2017 is officially here, most people are keeping busy with their resolutions for the new year. While these vows to spend more time with family, shed a few pounds or finally give up smoking are certainly laudable, they may can people to temporarily lose track of current events.

For instance, it may have escaped most people's notice that 29 new laws went into effect here in Tennessee on January 1, including one that will introduce dramatic changes to our criminal code.

Specifically, the Public Safety Act of 2016, sponsored by Senate Judiciary Committee Chairman Brian Kelsey and Senate Majority Leader Mark Norris, is designed to not only drive down the state's violent crime rate, but also address the pressing issue of recidivism.

The legislation, which was originally the brainchild of a task force commissioned by Governor Bill Haslem, calls for the following going forward:

  • Domestic violence: An automatic order of protection will be issued in the event there is an arrest for a domestic violence-related crime, and the officer has probable cause to believe that the use of deadly force was either undertaken or attempted by a defendant. A hearing on the matter would be held within 15 days. In addition, any third or subsequent conviction on domestic violence charges is henceforth treated as a Class E felony.
  • Mandatory minimums: The mandatory minimum prison sentence will be set to 85 percent for third and subsequent convictions for aggravated burglary, and Class A, B, and C felonies relating to the manufacture, sale and distribution of controlled substances. In addition, the monetary thresholds for felony property theft are altered from $500-$1,000 to $1,000-$2,500 for a Class E felony, and from $1,000-$10,000 to $2,500-$10,000 for a Class D felony.
  • Probation/Parole violations: The use of both incentives and sanctions is henceforth authorized in a bid to reshape community supervision and, by extension, reduce the number of people send back to prison for parole/probation violations. The move, according to lawmakers, will save the state close to $80 million per year and makes sense given that 40 percent of the 12,500-plus people entering state prison last year were individuals who violated supervision conditions.

Whether you have questions about how any of the provisions of the Public Safety Act apply to your situation, or are facing any manner of criminal charges, consider speaking with a skilled legal professional to learn more.

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Mr. McKellar was voted by his peers as a “Top Attorney” by Knoxville’s CityView magazine in its 2010, 2011, 2012, 2013, 2014, and 2015 editions. In 2014, 2015, and 2016, Mr. McKellar was selected as a member of the “Top 100 Trial Lawyers” by the National Trial Lawyers.

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