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Penalties Increased for Strangulation

Information is provided by the office of 28th District State Sen. Joey Hensley, MD, R-Hohenwald, who represents Giles, Lewis, Maury, Marshall and part of Williamson counties. "The 113th General Assembly has adjourned for 2023, and it was a very successful year.," Hensley said.

"We have taken measures for Tennessee to be a better place to live, work and to raise a family. I will go over the laws passed this session."

Increasing penalties for strangulation - To crack down on crime and abuse, lawmakers approved a law to increase penalties for strangulation charges.

It clarifies that if a victim loses consciousness as a result of strangulation, the assailant can be prosecuted for attempted first or second-degree murder.

It further adds that if a victim was pregnant at the time of the attack, the offender will be charged with aggravated assault involving strangulation, resulting in a Class B felony.

If domestic violence is suspected, the offender must also take part in evidence-based programming for domestic violence.

Finally, criminals charged with assault or aggravated assault involving a first responder may not be released on their own recognizance; the defendant must post bail. This bill will help law enforcement keep criminals behind bars and also protect victims of abuse.

Enhancing criminal sentencing for murder - The General Assembly passed a law that increases the sentencing for voluntary manslaughter to a Class B felony.

If charged, one would be sentenced to 8-12 years in prison, up from the previous sentence of 3-6 years. The increase better reflects the gravity of the offense.

Increased penalty for severe vandalism – This law increases the sentence for vandalism of critical infrastructure if the damage totals more than $1,000. It raises the penalty from a Class E felony to a Class C felony.

Increasing penalties for desecrating a house of worship – This law expands the Class E felony offense for desecrating a house of worship by adding “knowingly or recklessly” to the offense of “intentionally desecrating” a house of worship.

Cracking down on racketeering - A new law expands the time frame from two to eight years in which two activities can be linked under the definition of racketeering activity as defined in the Racketeer Influenced and Corrupt Organization (RICO) Act of 1989.

This will help better prosecute racketeering crimes such as money laundering, prostitution and counterfeit of controlled substances.

It also redefines certain terms pertaining to racketeering activity and specifies that if murder is involved, the conviction must result in a Class A felony and be no lower than a Range II offense under the RICO Act.

Geotags for ignition interlock devices – A new law will make it easier for law enforcement to prosecute those convicted of a DUI for, once again, getting behind the wheel under the influence.

It requires that all ignition interlock devices installed on vehicles after January 1, 2024 be equipped with GPS technology to geotag a vehicle’s location whenever an ignition interlock device is used to start a vehicle. The geotag will help clarify which jurisdiction a driver should be prosecuted in if they attempt to drive under the influence.

Ignition interlock devices are installed on vehicles of drivers convicted of a DUI and require drivers to pass a breathalyzer test to ensure they are not under the influence of alcohol before they can operate their vehicle.

When the driver blows into the breathalyzer a photo is taken to confirm the driver’s identity, and after January 1, 2024, their location will be geotagged.

Increasing tools for law enforcement agencies to track criminals - To make it easier to locate dangerous criminals and recover missing persons, a new law makes it easier to install license plate readers on roadways to help law enforcement track criminals and stop crimes.

The law allows companies that manufacture license plate readers (LPRs) and are able to meet strict guidelines to place LPRs on state and federal roadways.

Local law enforcement can decide which companies to use to protect its communities. LPRs are a cost effective and safe tool used by law enforcement to prevent crime and enhance safety.

Protecting citizens from stalking - This law strengthens Tennessee’s anti-stalking laws by expanding the meaning of stalking to include use of an electronic tracking or Global Positioning System (GPS) device to secretly monitor the location of an individual and/or their property without their consent.

State law requires at least two separate noncontinuous acts to occur before someone could be charged with the offense. Law enforcement agencies across the nation have warned citizens about the growing problem of stalking with electronic tracking devices secretly used by criminals to follow vehicles they intend to steal or worse.

Restitution for children of victims of DUI - If a parent of a minor child is killed by an intoxicated driver, the law requires the convicted offender to pay restitution in child maintenance for the victim’s children until each child reaches 18 years of age and has graduated from high school or the class of which the child is a member has graduated.

The General Assembly improved upon that law by passing legislation to allow a family member of the victim’s children to convert the criminal restitution, which would be paid at the end of a defendant’s sentence, to a civil judgment so the children will be compensated sooner rather than later.

Strengthening the boating under the influence statute – This year, the General Assembly passed stricter penalties for boating under the influence (BUI).

The law makes sentencing alternatives for boating under the influence the same as driving under the influence.

It also increases from 6 to 12 months the time that a person's privilege to operate a boat is suspended for BUI violation.

It also allows law enforcement to seek search warrants to perform breath and blood tests on BUI suspects and adds mandatory fines for BUI offenses.

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

His district address is 855 Summertown Highway, Hohenwald, TN., 38462, his telephone number is 931-796-2018, his cell phone is 931-212-8823 and E-mail: sen.joey.hensley@capitol.tn.gov

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