New Crime Laws that Will Take Effect in Tennessee from July 2024

The recent legislative session brought several significant changes to Tennessee’s criminal laws. These changes are designed to address various aspects of criminal behavior, enhance public safety, and ensure justice is served.

As experienced criminal defense attorneys based in Nashville, TN, we want to share some of the important updates regarding these new crime laws that have taken effect in Tennessee as of July 1, 2024. After all, staying informed about these changes is crucial for understanding your rights and responsibilities under the law.

1. Jillian’s Law

One of the most significant changes is Jillian’s Law. Named after 18-year-old Jillian Ludwig, who was tragically killed by a stray bullet in November 2023, this law addresses how the criminal justice system interacts with individuals who are considered incompetent to face trial.

Jillian Ludwig was walking on a track in Nashville’s Edgehill Community Memorial Gardens Park when she was struck by a stray bullet. According to Metro Nashville police, the gunfire originated from across the street, where a man admitted to shooting toward a vehicle.

The man was a repeat offender who had been charged with assault with a deadly weapon in April 2023. However, the case was dismissed after three court-appointed physicians ruled him incompetent to stand trial.

Jillian’s Law was enacted to prevent similar tragedies by requiring defendants like the individual who shot Ludwig to be admitted to a treatment facility. The new crime law now presumes that anyone charged with a felony or Class A misdemeanor and found incompetent to stand trial “poses a substantial likelihood of serious harm.”

In addition, the law mandates that individuals deemed incompetent to stand trial be entered into the National Instant Criminal Background Check System (NICS). This ensures they are prohibited from purchasing or owning firearms.

2. Capital Punishment for Child Rape Crimes

This new crime law allows the state to pursue the death penalty for adults found guilty of aggravated child rape. The specific circumstances of each case would dictate whether the convicted individual receives a life sentence or the death penalty.

If a jury convicts an individual of aggravated child rape, a separate sentencing hearing is required to decide the offender’s punishment. Should the death penalty be the decided punishment, the Tennessee Supreme Court is obligated to review the conviction and sentence.

However, individuals who had an intellectual disability at the time of the crime cannot be sentenced to death. Also, minors found guilty of aggravated child rape are to be sentenced as Range II offenders, with a mandatory minimum sentence of 25 years and a maximum of 40 years.

Image is of a statuette of lady justice and scales, concept of new crime laws take effect July 2024 in Tennessee

3. Laken Riley Act of 2024

The “Laken Riley Act of 2024”, named in honor of a 22-year-old nursing student who was tragically attacked and killed while jogging on the University of Georgia campus on February 22, introduces important changes to self-defense laws on public college campuses in Tennessee.

Under this new crime law, public colleges and other public institutions of higher education cannot prohibit adults lawfully present on campus from carrying non-lethal weapons for self-defense. The bill defines non-lethal weapons to include items such as pepper spray, pepper spray guns, pepper gel, mace, stun guns, electronic control devices, and other conducted energy devices.

4. Increased Penalties for School Threats

This new crime law significantly increases the penalties for individuals threatening to commit acts of mass violence on school property or at school-related activities. Previously classified as a Class A misdemeanor, this offense has now been elevated to a Class E felony.

Under this new classification, anyone convicted of a Class E felony in Tennessee could face up to six years in prison and a fine of up to $3,000. This substantial increase in penalties reflects the seriousness with which Tennessee lawmakers are addressing threats of mass violence in educational settings.

5. Back the Blue Act

The “Back the Blue Act” introduces tougher penalties for assaulting law enforcement officers in Tennessee. Previously classified as a Class A misdemeanor with a minimum 30-day sentence and a $5,000 fine, this offense is now deemed a Class E felony. The new mandatory minimum sentence is 60 days, and the fine has increased to $10,000 under this new crime law.

New Crime Laws and Understanding Your Rights

With these new laws in effect, it is crucial to understand your rights and how these changes may impact you. Whether you are facing charges or simply want to stay informed, knowing the law is your first line of defense. A criminal defense attorney can help protect your rights and ensure you receive fair treatment under the law.

Reach out if you have any questions or wish to learn more regarding these new crime laws. If you or someone you love has been charged with a crime, call Nash Law firm at 615-NASH-LAW to schedule a consultation.

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