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Achievements in the 2021 Legislature

Updated: Jul 6, 2021

This information is provided courtesy of 28th District State Sen. Joey Hensley, MD. who represents Giles and five other counties. July Enactments Children / Severe Child Abuse / Exposure to Dangerous Drugs – A law was passed to protect children from being exposed to dangerous illegal drugs.

It expands the definition of “severe child abuse” to involve a child’s exposure to certain extremely dangerous or illegal drugs.

An individual who allows a child to be in the presence of and have accessibility to such drugs as cocaine, methamphetamine or fentanyl will be guilty of severe child abuse. Safe Home for Trafficked Children – A law was approved to help prevent minors who are victims of human trafficking from prosecution for prostitution and ensure they are given the care they need to recover.

It requires law enforcement officers to alert the Department of Children’s Services when they take a minor into custody on charges of prostitution so the child can appropriately be placed in a safe home.

This helps ensure the child can receive professional assistance and can be removed from a life dictated by abusive traffickers. Sexual Assault and Human Trafficking Victims / Self Defense – A law was enacted to establish certain considerations regarding the use of force by victims of human trafficking.

It authorizes victims to use force that could result in serious bodily injury or death, even if victims are engaged in illegal activity or where they are not legally allowed, as a human trafficking victim.

Victims must prove in court they are a victim of human trafficking in order to use deadly force.

Previously, Tennessee law allowed victims to respond in kind to a reasonable belief of a threat of death or serious bodily injury by using force as self-defense or defense of a third party.

However, force was not lawful when used by persons engaged in criminal activity in a location they were not allowed to be or in a location that furthered criminal activity.

Often, victims of human trafficking can be engaged in criminal activity that is largely forced on them by a trafficker, such as manufacturing or selling drugs. Sex Trafficking / Full Sentence – Another bill adds those convicted of sex trafficking to the category of sexual predators who are ineligible for early parole or release before completion of their full sentence.

The new law applies to offenders who have been convicted of one or more predatory offenses. Human Trafficking / Evidence / Social Media Platforms – Legislation was passed to help prosecute crimes involving human trafficking where a social media platform was used.

In human trafficking cases, it is common for defendants to use cellphones to communicate through social media or chats to negotiate over a price of a victim.

The legislation authorizes a law enforcement officer, district attorney or designee, or the attorney general or designee to require disclosure of wire and electronic communications for evidentiary purposes to crack down on human trafficking offenses organized through social media platforms. The conversation or data from these platforms is needed to corroborate the victim’s story of what happened. Companies or providers that refuse to comply with the legislation can be punished for contempt of the court. Truth in Sentencing – The 112th General Assembly passed major “Truth in Sentencing” legislation strengthening protections for victims and their families.

It ensures violent or sexual offenders serve 100 percent of the sentence imposed by a judge or jury.

The new law affects offenses that historically target women and children such as rape, sexual battery, continuous sexual abuse of a child, sexual battery by an authority figure, incest, promoting prostitution, aggravated child abuse, domestic assault, aggravated sexual exploitation of a minor and trafficking for a commercial sex act.

While legislation does not remove judicial discretion, it ensures that parole and probation are not options for those found guilty of crimes in these categories. Counselors / Sexual Misconduct -- Legislation designed to protect victims from an unscrupulous counselor or clergy member was approved on final consideration.

The law adds a victim is incapable of defense if sexual contact occurs during a consultation, examination, treatment, therapy or other professional service provided by a physician, psychologist, psychiatrist, therapist, social worker, nurse, chemical dependency counselor or a member of the clergy. Animal Cruelty – Aggravated animal cruelty is a grave crime that includes intentionally killing or causing serious physical harm to a companion animal such as a dog or a cat.

State lawmakers approved legislation to remove barriers to prosecute aggravated animal cruelty cases in Tennessee.

Before, to convict a person of aggravated animal cruelty a prosecutor must prove the act was done in a ‘depraved or sadistic manner.’

The new law removes the language ‘depraved or sadistic’ from the law, which is difficult to prove.

It provides that a person commits aggravated cruelty to animals when, with no justifiable purpose, the person intentionally or knowingly kills, maims, tortures, crushes, burns, drowns, suffocates, mutilates, starves, or otherwise causes serious physical injury, a substantial risk of death, or death to a companion animal. Hensley may be contacted at 425 Rep. John Lewis Way N., Suite 742, Nashville, Tenn., 37243, 615-741-3100, by calling toll free 1-800-449-8366 ext. 13100, or by faxing 615-253-0231. His address is 855 Summertown Highway, Hohenwald Tenn., 38462. The telephone is 931-796-2018, his cell phone is 931-212-8823 or by e-mail: sen.joey.hensley@capitol.tn.gov

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Information in this column comes from the office of 28th District State Sen. Joey Hensley M.D., who represents Giles and five other counties. From school bus drivers to trucking, the lack of Commercia