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New Year Laws Related To Crime And Safety Go Into Effect In Tennessee

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The Tennessee Conservative [By Paula Gomes] –

While most of the legislation that the Tennessee General Assembly passes usually goes into effect at the beginning of the state’s fiscal year, July 1st, some gets delayed to January 1st.

Several new laws passed by the 113th General Assembly pertaining to public safety and crime went into effect at the beginning of this new year.

A look at some of the new laws:

Documentation Assistance for Discharged Inmates

Inmates being discharged from prison after serving time for a felony will be provided assistance from the Department of Safety if the inmate intends to live in Tennessee. The department is now required to help them obtain a photo ID if they do not have current photo ID or a driver license in order to assist former inmates in finding post-release employment. The department may also help soon-to-be released inmates with other documents such as birth certificates and social security cards.

Stiffer Penalties for Texting While Driving

Named for a Lebanon business owner who died in a car crash in 2020, the “Eddie Conrad Act” establishes increased penalties for those caught on their phones while operating a vehicle. Drivers who are 18 years old or younger face having their licenses suspended for six months if caught twice in a year and 7 points being charged to their driving record.

An adult driver caught driving distracted three times or more in one year could have their license revoked. First and second offenses will carry a 4-point penalty with each subsequent violation adding an additional 5 points.

Grant Program for Firefighters Needing Mental Health Assistance

The James “Dustin” Samples Act was passed after Samples’ widow Jennifer testified to the House Local Government Committee last February. Samples, who struggled with PTSD despite being a mental health advocate for others, eventually took his own life. The grant will cover costs for employers who provide worker’s compensation for firefighters needing to take time off and seek support.

Training to Keep Children Safe

Providing training for the state court system, “Abrial’s Law, the Keeping Children Safe from Family Violence Act” will help detect child abuse and provide a means of removal from domestic violence situations for victims.

Oversight of School Bus Drivers

Previously overseen by the state board of education, school bus drivers will now be the responsibility of local boards of education. The law also expands the types of convictions that revoke a school bus driver certificate. Adopting specifications for school buses also changes from the state BOE to the department of safety.

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Breathalyzers for Repeat DUI Offenders

Breathalyzer interlock devices installed on or after January 1st, 2024, must use GPS technology to track the movements of the vehicles for repeat DUI offenders. The intention of the law is not to constantly track the vehicle, but to ensure it is not being driven after the driver has drunk alcohol. A geotag of the car’s location will be created during initial startup tests, if a test is skipped, at random retests, or if detection that the device has been tampered with is found.

Voucher Program for Handgun Safety Courses

The Department of Safety is now required to create a voucher program that will reimburse Tennesseans for the cost of undergoing state-certified firearms training. The law will provide up to $30 for anyone who takes a handgun safety course. Licensed federal firearms dealers must also display signage that advertises the voucher program. Handgun courses are no longer mandated since Tennessee became a Constitutional carry state.

About the Author: Paula Gomes is a Tennessee resident and reporter for The Tennessee Conservative. 

You can reach Paula at paula@tennesseeconservativenews.com.

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