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Crime and traffic laws effective July 1 in Tennessee

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By Sabrina Bates

MVP Regional News Editor

June 30 marks the end of the state’s 2022-23 fiscal year and with it comes a new slate of laws that go into effect July 1 for Fiscal Year 2023-24 in Tennessee.

These new laws were approved by the 113th Tennessee General Assembly and received final approval by Gov. Bill Lee. There are changes involving criminal offenses, traffic laws and the addition of drugs considered controlled substances.

The Jabari Bailey Highway Safety Act requires motorists to reduce speed or change lanes where applicable when encountering any vehicle with activated hazard lights in an emergency lane. This expansion of the “move over law” levies fines for drivers who fail to move over or reduce speeds for any vehicle with hazard lights on in an emergency lane, not just two-truck or emergency vehicles. The bill was named after a young Memphis man, who lost his leg after he was struck by a vehicle while trying to help a friend stranded on the side of a highway.

Senate Bill 0213 imposes a mandatory minimum 30-day jail sentence for a person convicted of domestic assault involving strangulation or attempted strangulation. The aggravated assault charge may be upgraded to attempted second- or first-degree murder when the victim loses consciousness as a result of strangulation.

Under the bill, those charged with aggravated assault involving strangulation against first responders or nurses will not be eligible to be released on their own recognizance or through an unsecured bond by judges.

House Bill 0289 expedites execution of death-row inmates to within 30 days after the exhaustion of any appeals. If a jury has imposed a sentence of death, it may expedite the sentence under two circumstances:

1. The offense involved the death of three or more victims whom the defendant killed using one or more firearms; the defendant committed the offense by using one or more deadly weapons on the grounds of a public or private elementary, secondary, or postsecondary school; or the defendant committed the offense by killing a first responder who was acting in the course of the first responder’s employment at the time of the offense; and

2. The evidence presented at trial proving the defendant’s guilt was incontestable, including, amongst other evidence, video evidence depicting the defendant committing the offense or DNA evidence linking the defendant to the offense.

HB 0340 expands zero-tolerance disciplinary actions for students who threaten mass violence on school grounds or at school functions. Zero-tolerance offenses will result in student expulsions for no less than one calendar year. The bill does allow a director of schools to modify the expulsion terms on a case-by-case basis.

HB 0554 requires district attorneys general to designate one assistant district attorney general as lead prosecutor in cases involving crimes in children, with the Tennessee Bureau of Investigation required to provide annual training for those prosecutors.

Fentanyl and its derivatives are now controlled substances that will carry a Class B felony charge for those caught with half a gram or more under HB 702, “One Pill Will Kill Act.”

Through HB 722, voluntary manslaughter is classified as a Class B felony instead of a Class C felony.

Landlords must give seniors who are 55 years and older a 90-day eviction notice instead of a 60-day notice when the eviction is for new-property development if the tenant is up-to-date on rent payments, under HB 988.

HB 1198 makes it a Class A misdemeanor for those who provide a motor vehicle to someone who is intoxicated or has a suspended driver’s license.

An animal tranquilizer, Xylazine, is now among a classification of drugs that will warrant a Class A misdemeanor for possession and Class C felony for its manufacture or distribution under House Bill 1242.

A person who commits stalking against a person age 65 or older may be charged with aggravated stalking for the offense.

Under HB 1444, anyone who commits vehicular homicide and leaves the scene of an accident will be ordered to serve 100 percent of his/her sentence.

Senate Bill 256 allows district attorneys general or local law enforcement agencies to extend criminal immunity to those who are experiencing a subsequent drug overdose and seeking medical attention.

Senate Bill 807 will no longer require those with HIV who were convicted of the offense of exposure to register as a sex offender with the state. Those convicted prior to July 1, 2023, may file a request for termination of registration requirements with TBI.

SB 1219 changes rape and incest convictions to Range II sentence requirements (serving at least 25 percent) if victims are between ages 13-17.

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