After passage in the House, the Tennessee Senate killed a bill protecting drivers who hit protestors unintentionally and heightening charges for protestors blocking roads. The Senate deferred the bill to summer study last Tuesday. Prior to that, the legislation struggled to move forward in the Senate after action was deferred or delayed several times in committee.
The Tennessee Star reported in early March that State Representative Ron Gant (R-Rossville), the bill sponsor, called the legislation an “anti-riot” bill.
The Tennessee House passed a bill mandating death or life imprisonment without parole for the first degree murder of law enforcement and first responders. The bill would elevate the intentional targeting and murdering of first responders to an act of terrorism. It passed without opposition, 88 to 0.
Two amendments moved to strengthen the language of the bill. One amendment noted that defendants who receive life sentence can’t be eligible for parole consideration until they’ve served 51 years. The other amendment added to the definitions of terrorism to offer further protections to law enforcement and first responders. Both amendments were adopted.
Those who murder or attempt to murder law enforcement or first responders may be sentenced to death or life without parole, respectively. The Tennessee House will vote on two bills outlining these proposed sentencing changes next Thursday. Specifically, these bills would apply to police, correctional officers, department of correction employees, probation and parole officers, emergency medical or rescue workers, EMTs, paramedics, and firefighters.
HB0511 handles murder charges, whereas HB0512 handles attempted murder charges. The former bill would give the jury two options for those who murder law enforcement or first responders: death, or life without parole. The latter bill would add onto the current sentencing options for attempted murder to allow life without parole as a punishment. It would also prohibit relief eligibility for those who received life without parole for aggravated rape, murder, or attempted murder of a child. Current law only limits relief eligibility for aggravated raped or murder of a child – this proposal would expand that to attempted murder.
Drivers who unintentionally hit protestors blocking roads illegally may receive immunity, and protestors may face more severe charges for violent and obstructive behavior. State Representative Ron Gant (R-Rossville) discussed this “anti-riot” legislation on Wednesday in a press release.
The bill would raise the penalty level for obstructing roads to a Class E felony, with a mandatory fine of $3,000 and the loss of voting powers. Those that unintentionally kill or injure protestors or rioters blocking roads would be immune from criminal charges. Additionally, those who throw objects at others or intentionally intimidates or harasses others may receive nearly a year in jail and a $2,500 fine. If someone throws an object and injures another, they may receive up to six years’ prison time.