Hands free to child protection: New laws in Tennessee go into effect July 1

Tennessee

TENNESSEE (WJHL) – Several new laws aiming to protect children from sexual predators and human trafficking are set to take effect July 1 in Tennessee.  

The laws include major legislation removing the statute of limitations for felony sex crimes against children in certain circumstances.  

The new law applies if the victim is under the age of 13 or ages 13 to 17 years old when the crime occurred and is reported before their 23rd birthday.  

If victims were 13 to 17 years old and did not report before their 23rd birthday, the statute of limitations is 25 years from their 18th birthday.  After those 25 years, the case can proceed if there is corroborating evidence of the allegations or similar acts by the defendant.  The measure also increases the time for civil claims involving child sexual abuse to be filed from 7 to 15 years after the victim turns 18 years old.   

Other sex offender laws set to take effect include: 

  • Legislation sponsored by Senator Dawn White (R-Murfreesboro), requiring offenders convicted of aggravated rape of a child who is three years of age or less to be sentenced to life in prison without the possibility of parole; 
  • A new statute, sponsored by Senator Art Swann (R-Maryville), strengthening penalties against offenders who commit a new sexual offense while on the Sex Offender Registry; 

The General Assembly also passed several new laws set for enactment on Monday which continue the Tennessee General Assembly’s ongoing efforts to combat human trafficking. These include: 

  • A major bill, sponsored by Senator Jon Lundberg (R-Bristol), ensuring that undercover human trafficking operations conducted by law enforcement officials to catch offenders who promote or patronize minors are prosecutable in Tennessee courts of law; 
  • Legislation, sponsored by Senator Todd Gardenhire (R-Chattanooga), allowing a victim of human trafficking to expunge their record of associated non-violent crimes under certain circumstances; and 

Other laws going into effect include:  

  • Traffic Safety – As enacted, prohibits a person from physically holding or supporting, with any part of the person’s body, a wireless telecommunications device or stand-alone electronic device while operating a motor vehicle; imposes other similar restrictions on activities such as texting; creates certain exceptions. – Amends TCATitle 55, Chapter 10 and Title 55, Chapter 8. 

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  • Gambling – As enacted, enacts the “Tennessee Sports Gaming Act.” – Amends TCATitle 4; Title 14; Title 38; Title 39, Chapter 17, Part 5; Title 47, Chapter 18; Title 49 and Title 67.

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  • State Government – As enacted, establishes daylight saving time as the standard time in Tennessee, subject to authorization to do so from the United States Congress and certain other conditions being met. – Amends TCA Section 4-1-401.

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  • Marriage – As enacted, authorizes members of the general assembly, duly appointed law enforcement chaplains, and members of the legislative body of a municipality to solemnize marriages; prohibits persons receiving online ordinations from solemnizing the rite of matrimony; requires members of the general assembly who want to solemnize marriage to opt in by filing notice of the member’s intention with the office of vital records. – Amends TCA Section 36-3-301.

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  • Abortion – As enacted, enacts the “Human Life Protection Act,” which bans abortion in this state effective on the 30th day after the U.S. Supreme Court overturns Roe v. Wade or an amendment to the U.S. Constitution to allow states to prohibit abortion; creates exception for situations where the abortion is necessary to prevent the death of pregnant woman or prevent serious risk of substantial and irreversible impairment of major bodily function; prohibits prosecution of a woman upon whom an abortion is performed or attempted. – Amends TCA Section 9-4-5116; Title 37, Chapter 10, Part 3; Title 39, Chapter 13, Part 2; Title 39, Chapter 15, Part 2; Title 39, Chapter 13, Part 1; Title 63, Chapter 9; Title 63, Chapter 6; Title 68 and Title 71, Chapter 5.

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  • Firearms and Ammunition – As enacted, creates a Class A misdemeanor offense for the transfer of a firearm to a person knowing that the person: has been judicially committed to a mental institution or adjudicated as a mental defective unless the person’s right to possess firearms has been restored; or is receiving inpatient mental health or substance abuse treatment at a hospital or treatment resource. – Amends TCA Title 16; Title 33 and Title 39, Chapter 17.

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  • Traffic Safety – As enacted, establishes requirements for the operation of electric foot scooters; specifies that for purposes of the DUI laws, an electric scooter will be considered a motor-driven vehicle. – Amends TCA Title 55, Chapter 1; Title 55, Chapter 10; Title 55, Chapter 12 and Title 55, Chapter 8.

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  • Criminal Offenses – As enacted, increases the penalty for using an unmanned aircraft over a critical infrastructure facility without the business operator’s consent from a Class C misdemeanor to a Class E felony; adds communication service facilities to the types of facilities that are considered critical infrastructure facilities. – Amends TCATitle 39.
  • Mental Illness – As enacted, requires the department of finance and administration, in consultation with the department of mental health and substance abuse services and the division of TennCare, to develop and administer a grant program to assist sheriffs who are required by law to transport persons who have been certified by a health care professional for transport to a hospital or treatment resource for a mental health examination to determine whether the person should be involuntarily admitted; authorizes hospitals and treatment resources to conduct a mental health examination to determine whether a person should be involuntarily admitted via telehealthservices. – Amends TCA Title 8, Chapter 21; Title 8, Chapter 42; Title 9, Chapter 8; Title 13, Chapter 26; Title 29, Chapter 20; Title 33, Chapter 2; Title 33, Chapter 6; Title 33, Chapter 7; Title 37, Chapter 1; Title 56; Title 63; Title 68 and Title 71.
  • Education – As enacted, requires that the Tennessee comprehensive assessment program (TCAP) tests administered in the 2019-2020 school year be administered in paper format; revises provisions regarding physical education. – Amends TCA Title 49.
  • TennCare – As enacted, directs the governor, through the commissioner of finance and administration, to submit a waiver amendment to the centers for Medicare and Medicaid services to provide TennCare II funding by means of a block grant indexed for inflation and population growth. – Amends TCA Title 4; Title 33; Title 56 and Title 71.

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