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New Tennessee Laws in July 2021

On July 1, 2021, a total of 32 new laws went into effect in Tennessee. Many of these laws made significant changes to the state’s criminal justice system. 

The following are several new Tennessee laws related to criminal law: 

  • Criminal Justice Reform – During the legislative session this year, the Tennessee General Assembly passed two criminal justice reform bills. The Alternatives to Incarceration Act aims to develop community-based alternatives to prison for those convicted of low-level and non-violent offenses, while the Reentry Success Act will help inmates transition into the workforce, as well as reduce liability for employers who hire individuals with a criminal record. 

  • Truth in Sentencing – This law requires certain sex crimes and violent offenses (e.g., rape, sexual battery, sexual battery by an authority figure, continuous abuse of a child, aggravated child abuse, aggravated exploitation of a minor, trafficking for a commercial sex act, promoting prostitution, incest, and domestic assault) to serve their entire sentence. 

  • Protections for Rape, Sexual Assault, and Human Trafficking Victims – There is no longer a statute of limitations for trafficking a child for a commercial sex act, and minor victims of human trafficking cannot be prosecuted for prostitution. Additionally, anyone who is convicted of trafficking someone for a commercial sex act will be labeled a child sexual predator. Another law allows human trafficking victims to use force that could result in serious injury or death in situations they are being trafficked. Lastly, if a parent is convicted of statutory rape, aggravated statutory rape, or statutory rape by an authority figure, he/she will automatically lose all custody, visitation, and inheritance rights to the child. 

  • Lifetime Protection Orders – Victims of domestic violence, assault, stalking, kidnapping, and attempted homicide may obtain a protection order that lasts a lifetime. 

  • Constitutional Carry – This law allows most adults who are at least 21 years old and military members who are at least 18 years old to carry a handgun without a permit in Tennessee. Furthermore, criminal penalties for certain firearm offenses have changed. For example, theft of a gun is no longer a felony and now carries a maximum jail term of six months. 

  • Porch Pirates – If you are caught stealing a package from another person’s porch or mailbox, you can be charged with a felony. The specific penalties depend on how much the stolen item is worth. 

  • Enhanced Protections for Police Officers – The Spencer Bristol Act increases the penalties for evading arrest if the offense results in an officer being seriously or fatally injured. Another law increases the penalties for anyone who is convicted of first-degree murder of a first responder to life imprisonment without parole or the death penalty. 

If you have been arrested in Knoxville, contact Eldridge and Cravens, PC today at (865) 544-2010 for a free case evaluation. Get a legal team with more than 55 years of combined experience on your side!