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Legislation Passes To Protect Victims of Crime

2024 Session of the 113th General Assembly

This information is from the office of 28th District State Sen. Joey Hensley, MD - Hohenwald.

He represents Giles, Lewis and parts of Marshall, Maury and Williamson counties.

These are some bills passed during the last legislative session.

Protecting Victims

Marsy’s Law - Victims’ Rights - Lawmakers passed a measure proposing to put Marsy’s Law in the state constitution to ensure crime victims’ rights are protected.

Marsy’s Law will ensure that victims have equal access to justice as convicted criminals. This proposed constitutional amendment seeks to establish clear and enforceable constitutional rights for victims of crime, including the rights to be: heard, informed, and treated with fairness, dignity, and respect through the judicial process.

Named after Marsalee Nicholas, it is part of a nationwide effort to support crime victims and prevent further trauma. Marsalee Nicholas’s family ran into the man who murdered Marsy a week after her death at the grocery store on the way back from her funeral.

Her murderer was her ex-boyfriend, who stalked and killed her while she was a student at the University of California at Santa Barbara in 1983. Her family was not notified that he was released on bail.

Marsy’s Law seeks to ensure devastating and traumatic experiences like this never happen to victims in Tennessee. This constitutional amendment passed its first of two required passages by the General Assembly.

To ratify the constitution, a constitutional amendment must pass the general assembly twice. The first time it must pass with a simple majority voting in favor. The second time it must pass the next General Assembly by a two-thirds majority.

Finally, the amendment would become part of the state constitution if the number of yes votes equal a majority of the total votes in the following gubernatorial election.

Debbie And Marie Domestic Violence Protection Act - To protect victims of domestic violence, the General Assembly passed legislation that requires certain aggravated domestic violence suspects to wear GPS monitors if released on bond.

Under the new law, a GPS service provider must notify a victim’s cell phone if their alleged attacker is within a certain proximity of their location. The company is required to notify local law enforcement when a violation of a defendant’s bond conditions occurred.

The law is named in honor of Debbie Sisco and Marie Varsos. Both women were killed in 2021 by Varsos’ estranged husband Shaun who was out on bond for strangling his wife and threatening to shoot her a month earlier. There were 61,637 victims of domestic violence statewide in 2022, according to the most recent data from Tennessee Bureau of Investigation.

Lifetime Orders Of Protection - The General Assembly passed legislation expanding eligibility for lifetime orders of protections to include victims of harassment, aggravated stalking and especially aggravated stalking.

In 2021, the General Assembly passed legislation that allowed victims of violent crime to petition a court for a lifetime order of protection.

This legislation is an extension of that law and prohibits offenders convicted of these offenses from communicating with their victims for life.

Maintaining Restraining Orders In Court Process -  It is important to protect all victims from their perpetrators.

One measure passed this session will ensure that restraining orders stay in place up to and throughout court proceedings. This law keeps a protective order in effect during the appeal to circuit or chancery court unless otherwise ordered by the general sessions judge or official.

Expungement For Human Trafficking Victims - This year, legislation passed that aims to protect victims of human trafficking with HIV whose records have been tainted by a conviction of aggravated prostitution.

The new law allows these victims to expunge the aggravated prostitution conviction from their record. Additionally, the bill removes the requirement for those convicted of aggravated prostitution to be placed on the Sex Offender Registry. It also provides a path for the victim’s name to be removed from the SOR list.

Being on the Sex Offender Registry makes it really hard for victims to access jobs, housing and certain rehabilitation programs. The new law gives victims the chance to take back their lives and allows them the chance for rehabilitation.

Criminal Injuries Compensation Act  -- Lawmakers passed legislation that helps streamline victims' ability to obtain compensation for damages brought by their perpetrators.

This law expands the time frame under the Criminal Injuries Compensation Act for a crime to be reported by the victim from 48 hours to fifteen days.

The new law provides victims a more reasonable amount of time to report offenses and damages against them. 

The Criminal Injuries Compensation Act provides funds of last resort to financially assist innocent victims of crime with personal injuries.

The law also expands the amount of documents a victim may submit to prove the crime occurred. Previous law only allowed this provision for victims of human trafficking.

Danielle’s Law – A law extends the statute of limitations for cases of rape or sexual assault when the victim is 18 years old or older. It extends the permissible time frame for initiating prosecution to three years if law enforcement was not involved and to five years if law enforcement was involved. 

Increasing Support For Victims Of Child Sex Trafficking – A law gives victims of child commercial sex trafficking more time to file a civil lawsuit against their attacker.

The law allows victims to sue up to 30 years after they turn 18 for any injuries or illnesses that occurred as a result of sexual abuse. The law previously gave victims 15 years after they turn 18 to pursue civil action against an alleged perpetrator.

Child Victims’ Privacy Act – A law protects the privacy of child victims of violent crime and their families.

The Child Victims’ Privacy Act ensures county medical examiner and autopsy reports of minors who are victims of violent crime remain private except in certain circumstances.

The law protects sensitive information generally included in autopsy reports like a victim’s medical history, photos, toxicology, and communications with family members and law enforcement.

It allows for in-person inspection of these autopsies with no photocopies or electronic images taken of reports by the person viewing them.

The reports could still be released in certain circumstances, including when a parent or guardian is not a suspect in the death of a child and gives explicit consent. A court may also order the release of the records upon showing good cause.

Fighting Human Trafficking At Adult Entertainment Establishments - A law requires that all adult-oriented establishments post the human trafficking hotline number on bathroom doors and all doors going in and out of the establishment.

Sen. Hensley may be contacted at 425 Rep. John Lewis Way N., Suite 742, Nashville, TN ., 37243, or call 615-741-3100, or call toll free 1-800-449-8366 extension 13100, or fax 615-253-0231.

His district address is 855 Summertown Highway, Hohenwald, TN., 38462, or phone 931-796-2018, or call his cell phone at 931-212-8823, or e-mail: sen.joey.hensley@capitol.tn.gov

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