Legislative Achievements

Survivors' Safety Bill (2014)

Before this law was enacted in 2014, domestic abusers with multiple convictions for inflicting bodily injuries on their victims were often permitted to serve their jail time on the weekends and return home to the victims they abused during the work week. This situation prevented survivors and their families from having time time to recover from the trauma of the abuse, accessing social services and resources, and escaping from their abuser. 

Our amendments require that abusers with multiple convictions for inflicting bodily injury serve their jail time day for day and consecutively, allowing their victims time to recover and seek resources. The language of our amendments to this law can be found in Tenn. Code Ann. 39-13-111.

(2) A second conviction for domestic assault committed in a manner prohibited by § 39-13-101(a)(1) is punishable by a fine of not less than three hundred fifty dollars ($350) nor more than three thousand five hundred dollars ($3,500), and by confinement in the county jail or workhouse for not less than thirty (30) consecutive days, nor more than eleven (11) months and twenty-nine (29) days.

(3) A third or subsequent conviction for domestic assault committed in a manner prohibited by § 39-13-101(a)(1), is punishable by a fine of not less than one thousand one hundred dollars ($1,100) nor more than five thousand dollars ($5,000), and by confinement in the county jail or workhouse for not less than ninety (90) consecutive days, nor more than eleven (11) months and twenty-nine (29) days.

(e) A person convicted of a violation under this section shall be required to serve at least the minimum sentence day for day. All persons sentenced under this section shall, in addition to service of at least the minimum sentence, be required to serve the difference between the time actually served and the maximum sentence on supervised probation.

 

Strangulation (2015)

 Strangulation is one of the most deadly forms of domestic violence.  Strangulation survivors are seven times more likely to become victims of homicide at the hands of their abuser and there is often no physical evidence on the victim. Before our amendments, Tennessee's strangulation law was outdated and failed to accurately define the crime, which resulted in inconsistent enforcement of this deadly crime. Our update allows for both an intentional and knowing mental state and properly defines the act, emphasizing the fact that no visible injury is required.

(a)(1) A person commits aggravated assault who:

(A) Intentionally or knowingly commits an assault as defined in § 39-13-101, and the assault:

(i) Results in serious bodily injury to another;

(ii) Results in the death of another;

(iii) Involved the use or display of a deadly weapon; or

(iv) Involved strangulation or attempted strangulation; or

(2) For purposes of subdivision (a)(1)(A)(iv), “strangulation” means intentionally or knowingly impeding normal breathing or circulation of the blood by applying pressure to the throat or neck or by blocking the nose and mouth of another person, regardless of whether that conduct results in any visible injury or whether the person has any intent to kill or protractedly injure the victim.

 

Aggravated Prostitution (2015)

People who are convicted of aggravated prostitution are HIV positive and knew that they were HIV positive at the time of their offense. Nearly all of these offenders were victims of domestic violence, sexual assault, or human trafficking. Before our amendment, people convicted of this crime were automatically placed on the sex offender registry for life. Unfortunately, this meant that these people (mostly women) could not access resources anywhere children are present, including rehabilitation facilities that allow children, sexual assault centers, domestic violence shelters, etc. This situation created a public health crisis because these women were not receiving treatment for HIV and many other conditions.  

This new law allows these convicted offenders to petition their sentencing court for removal from the lifetime registry if they can show that they were victims of domestic violence, sexual assault, or human trafficking. It also allows plea agreements that prevent these offenders from ever being placed on the registry at the time of their sentencing.

Tenn. Code Ann. 40-39-218

(a) A person who is mandated to comply with the requirements of this part, based solely upon a conviction for aggravated prostitution, under § 39-13-516, may petition the sentencing court for termination of the registration requirements based on the person's status as a victim of a human trafficking offense, as defined by § 39-13-314, a sexual offense, under title 39, chapter 13, part 5, or domestic abuse, as defined by § 36-3-601.

(b)(1) Upon receiving a petition, the court shall, at least thirty (30) days prior to a hearing on the petition, cause the office of the district attorney general responsible for prosecuting the person to be notified of the person's petition for release from the registration requirements. Upon being notified, the district attorney general shall conduct a criminal history check on the person to determine if the person has been convicted of a sexual offense or violent sexual offense during the period the person was required to comply with the requirements of this part. The district attorney general shall report the results of the criminal history check to the court, together with any other comments the district attorney general may have concerning the person's petition for release. The district attorney general may also appear and testify at the hearing in lieu of, or in addition to, submitting written comments.

(2) Notwithstanding subdivision (b)(1), a petition for termination of the registration requirements mandated by this part may be filed at any time following a verdict or finding of guilty. If the petition is filed prior to the sentencing hearing required by § 40-35-209, the court shall combine the hearing on the petition with the sentencing hearing. When the petition is filed prior to the sentencing hearing, the thirty-day notice requirement imposed pursuant to subdivision (b)(1) shall not apply; provided, however, that the district attorney general's office shall be given notice of the petition and reasonable time to comply with the requirements of subdivision (b)(1).

(c)(1) If the report of the district attorney general indicates that the petitioner has been convicted of a sexual offense or violent sexual offense while mandated to comply with the requirements of this part, the court shall deny the petition without conducting a hearing.

(2) If the report of the district attorney general indicates that the petitioner has not been convicted of a sexual offense or violent sexual offense while mandated to comply with the requirements of this part, the court shall conduct a hearing on the petition. At the hearing, the court shall call such witnesses, including, if applicable, an examining psychiatrist or licensed psychologist with health service designation or the prosecuting district attorney general, as the court deems necessary to reach an informed and just decision on whether the petitioner should be released from the requirements of this part. The petitioner may offer such witnesses and other proof at the hearing as is relevant to the petition.

(3) If a petition for release from the requirements of this part is denied by the court, the person may not file another such petition for a period of three (3) years.

(4) If the court determines that the petitioner has been a victim of a human trafficking offense, as defined by § 39-13-314, sexual offense, under title 39, chapter 13, part 5, or domestic abuse, as defined by § 36-3-601, and that the person should not be required to comply with the requirements of this part, the court shall grant the petition.

(d) Upon the court's order granting the petition, the petitioner shall file a request for termination of registration requirements with the Tennessee bureau of investigation headquarters in Nashville, pursuant to § 40-39-207.

 

Stalking Prevention (2016)

The crime of stalking is a serious problem both in Tennessee and across the United States. Fifteen percent of women and six percent of men have experienced stalking, with new victims often between the ages of 11 and 17. Social media has enabled people who stalk others via the internet many more ways to contact and harass their victims. Tennessee's stalking law has not kept pace with the evolution of more advanced stalking methods that are now available through new technology.   

Our legislation modernizes the current stalking law to ensure that all technological methods of stalking are clearly included. This update is essential to keep victims of this crime safe even as new technology continues to develop.

 

CMV Awareness (2016)

Cytomegalovirus (CMV) is the most common in utero viral infection in the United States, yet only 13% of women have heard about it. According to the CDC, 1 out of 150 babies are born with congenital CMV each year, which places them at risk of blindness, deafness, cerebral palsy, mental and physical disabilities and even death. The Tennessee Department of Health reports that between 600 and 800 babies are born with congenital CMV every year. This virus is preventable if at-risk women know what measures to take.   

Our legislation encourages healthcare providers or facilities who care for women to provide patients who they determine to be at risk of contracting CMV (e.g. daycare workers, women with young children, or women with compromised immune systems) with information on how to prevent the disease.  Our ultimate goal is to ensure that women in our state who are at risk for this common, devastating, and preventable disease gain access to lifesaving information.

 

Domestic Violence Offender Notification (2017)

According to the Violence Policy Center, Tennessee currently ranks ninth in the nation in terms of the number of women killed by men and is consistently ranked in the top ten most violent states for women.  Offenders with a history of domestic violence are five times more likely to murder an intimate partner when a firearm is present in the home.

Tennessee Defendants who have been convicted of a domestic violence misdemeanor are currently prohibited from owning or possessing a firearm under both state and federal law.  Although this fact was verbally communicated to defendants prior to the entry of a guilty plea, the notice provided to defendants was deficient when compared to the information provided to respondents in civil Order of Protection proceedings.

The new law uses the existing notification and procedures in the Order of Protection context and applies it to convicted domestic violence offenders. By implementing these procedures in the domestic violence misdemeanor context, this law will ensure that every defendant is given information to understand the consequences of a guilty plea or conviction and provide greater protection for victims.