Sponsors say Tennessee will become the 18th state in the nation to require first-time drunken driving offenders to install an ignition interlock device on their vehicle under legislation approved by both the House and Senate on Tuesday.
The bill first passed the House 95-0 under sponsorship of Rep. Tony Shipley, R-Kingsport, then passed the Senate later in the day 31-0. It now goes to Gov. Bill Haslam, who is expected to sign it.
Under current law, only repeat DUI offenders or first-time offenders with a blood alcohol content of .15 or higher can be required to install an interlock device. The bill (HB353) lowers the threshold to .08 blood alcohol content, the same level required to create a legal presumption of driving under the influence.
The devices require a driver to take a breath test for alcohol before starting a vehicle, which will not start if any alcohol is detected.
While required to have an interlock device installed, DUI offenders do not have to go through a year’s suspension of their license as the case under present law. Beavers said the effect is to allow them to be “getting their lives back together” while at the same time protecting the public by preventing drunken driving.
“With this bill, we know we can reduce the number of deaths on our highways,” said Beavers on the Senate floor with Shipley at her side.
Other states that have mandated interlock devices for first offenders have seen a 30 percent decline in alcohol-related traffic fatalities, Beavers said, and a study by the Center for Disease Control and Prevention indicated that those required to have an interlock device are 67 percent less likely to become a repeat offender.
A union has suspended its protests against subcontractors paying substandard wages and benefits — using signs that say “Shame On” the person or entity targeted in the protest — after two sign-carrying pickets were found to have criminal backgrounds, reports the News Sentinel. Picketers have held up the signs in front of Cherokee Health, Denark Construction and the Andrew Johnson Building in Knoxville, as well as at Blount Memorial Hospital and Maryville College.
But the banners are down in the Knoxville’ area as the Mid-South Carpenters Regional Council awaits criminal background checks on all individuals it hires to hold the signs.
The union took down the banners after two Knoxville men holding a “Shame on…” banner in front of First Baptist Church of Dandridge were arrested on May 18 for violating the state sex offender registry law.
Ricky Dean Moore, 49, was released in lieu of $25,000 bond, while Michael David Sadler, 51, was held on $25,000 bond, according to a Jefferson County General Sessions Court staffer. They each face a 9 a.m. June 13 hearing in General Sessions Court.
James L. Kerley, executive secretary/treasurer with the Nashville-based union that has 5,000-plus members, said the union was unaware of the men’s criminal backgrounds.
“As far as we know, we are doing everything we can do to make sure that doesn’t happen again,” he said.
— Note: Frank Cagle has an opinion on such doings.
Persons who promote prostitution could be defined as “violent” under a proposed law working through the Tennessee General Assembly. It cleared a House committee on Thursday, reports WPLN.
The bill (HB2853) would make “promoting prostitution” – that’s the legal charge for being a pimp or a madam – a “violent offense” if the same person gets caught doing it twice. That would land them on the widely publicized sex offender registry, according to the bill’s House sponsor, Debra Maggart, a Republican from Hendersonville.
But Joe Towns, a Memphis Democrat, says the bill is “ill-worded” and goes too far in adding “tons” of non-violent offenders to the Registry.
“They’re breaking the law – we already have laws against prostitution. But you’re adding all these other people who are going to be on the Registry. To me that’s, Number One, it sends the wrong signal, because it trivializes, to me, what has really happened over here …. A real serious offense.”
The TBI estimates Tennessee stood to lose about $5 million in federal funding had the legislature not changed the state’s sex offender laws to meet requirements of the Adam Walsh Act, according to The Tennessean.. Part of those requirements included scanning all sex offender records into computers and a requirement that juvenile sex offenders aged 14 to 17 be included in the state’s sex offender registry. Youth advocates opposed putting juveniles on the registry, but the state was able to work out a compromise: Juvenile sex offenders will be added to a special private registry available only to law enforcement agencies.
Linda O’Neal, executive director of the Tennessee Commission on Children and Youth, said sex-offending teens are less likely to commit new crimes but very likely to be harmed by the notoriety of having their picture and personal information posted on the sex offender registry.
“If children get intervention and treatment, they really do not only have the opportunity, but do in fact turn their lives around,” O’Neal said. “If you are on a public registry, it felt like you were sentencing them to a life of crime or being marginalized.”
Pam Beck, a TBI staff attorney who advises the state’s sex offender registry, said they were told by the Justice Department that without a juvenile component on the registry, the state would not be in compliance with federal law and jeopardize federal funding.
Scanning records has proved more time consuming. The state estimates it is about three-quarters done with the job but won’t finish until the fall. Costs for the project were largely picked up by the federal government, courtesy of a $260,000 grant.
Release from Senate Republican Caucus:
(NASHVILLE, TN), May 21, 2011 — Tennessee will add juveniles convicted of the most violent sexual offenses to the state sex offender registry under legislation unanimously approved by the full Senate today. The bill is sponsored by Senator Brian Kelsey (R-Germantown).
“We must protect our children from all sexual offenders, even juveniles if they have committed violent acts,” said Senator Kelsey. “This legislation places the most violent offenders on the registry, so law enforcement officers can monitor those who would prey on our youth.”
Senate Bill 869 applies to offenders between ages 14 and 18 who have been convicted of rape, rape of a child, aggravated rape of a child, aggravated sexual battery, or attempt of any of those four offenses.
Unlike the public sex offender registry for adults, the juvenile sex offender registry will be available only to law enforcement officers. A court may order whether a juvenile offender must abide by the residency limitations of the adult sex offender registry. First-time offenders who are not convicted of a subsequent offense may apply for removal from the registry once they reach the age of 25. Juveniles who are convicted of a second violent offense, however, will be placed on the public sex offender registry once they turn 18 and will remain on the list for life.
The companion bill, sponsored by Rep. Debra Maggart (R-Hendersonville), passed the the House of Representatives Wednesday. The bill returns today to the House, which is expected to agree with a technical amendment and send the bill to Governor Bill Haslam for his signature next week.