20-HB8005/SB8005 – Lamberth/Johnson

Bill Description

(1) Under present law, a person who commits vandalism by knowingly damaging or destroying government property without consent is subject to punishment in the same manner as theft, based on the value of the property. Generally, a property's value is based on fair market value or replacement cost. This bill adds that, for vandalism offenses involving government property, the property's value includes the fair market value of repairing, cleaning, and restoring the property;
(2) This bill creates the Class A misdemeanor offense of assault against a first responder who is discharging or attempting to discharge the first responder's official duties. This bill defines "first responder" to include law enforcement officers (specifically including state law enforcement officers), firefighters, emergency services personnel, and other persons who respond to 911 calls. A person commits this offense by knowingly causing bodily injury to the first responder or knowingly causing physical contact with the first responder that a reasonable person would regard as extremely offensive or provocative. The punishment for assault against a first responder will be a $5,000 fine and a mandatory-minimum 30-day jail sentence;
(3) This bill creates the Class C felony offense of aggravated assault against a first responder who is discharging or attempting to discharge the first responder's official duties. A person commits this offense by committing assault against a first responder, as described in (2), and the assault results in serious bodily injury or death of the first responder, involved the use or display of a deadly weapon, or involved strangulation. The punishment for aggravated assault of a first responder will be a $15,000 fine and a mandatory minimum 90-day prison sentence;
(4) Under present law, the offense of aggravated assault is generally a Class C or Class D felony. The maximum fine for a Class C felony is generally $10,000 and the maximum fine for a Class D felony is generally $5,000. Present law sets the maximum fine amount for an aggravated assault against a first responder, healthcare provider, or employee or contractor of a utility at $15,000. This bill changes the maximum fine that is generally applicable to aggravated assault to $15,000 regardless of the victim's occupation;
(5) This bill adds to the punishment for a person convicted of vandalism against government property or merchandise offered for retail sale by a retail merchant by requiring that the court order restitution for property damage or loss;
(6) This bill changes present law definitions applicable to the offenses of disorderly conduct and rioting to clarify that a person's mere assembling or presence at the scene of such an event does not constitute an offense;
(7) Under present law, the offense of participation in a riot is a Class A misdemeanor. This bill imposes a mandatory minimum 30-day jail sentence for participation in a riot and an order of restitution for any property damage or loss incurred as a result of the offense;
(8) Under present law, the offense of aggravated rioting is a Class E felony. This bill imposes a mandatory minimum 45-day prison sentence for aggravated rioting and an order of restitution for any property damage or loss incurred as a result of the offense;
(9) Under present law, the offense of inciting a riot is a Class A misdemeanor. This bill adds a requirement that the sentencing court to order restitution for any property damage or loss incurred as a result of the offense;
(10) This bill increases the penalty for the offense of disrupting a lawful meeting, procession, or gathering from a Class B misdemeanor to a Class A misdemeanor;
(11) Under present law, the offense of obstruction of a highway or other public way is generally a Class C misdemeanor. The offense is enhanced to a Class B misdemeanor, punishable by a fine of $200 if, at the time of the violation, the person obstructs an emergency vehicle from accessing the highway or street, or highway's or street's right-of-way. This bill increases the penalty for the offense of obstruction of a highway or other public way to a Class A misdemeanor in all circumstances;
(12) Under present law, the offense of damage or defacement of state or local government property by the painting or other permanent application of graffiti directly onto the property is a Class B misdemeanor and must be punished by at least 25 hours of community service work. This bill increases the penalty for such offense to a Class A misdemeanor and requires the sentencing court to order restitution for any property damage or loss incurred as a result of the offense;
(13) The Equal Access to Public Property Act of 2012 makes it a Class A misdemeanor for a person to camp on state property that is not specifically designated as a camping area. Present law provides various examples of what constitutes camping. This bill specifies that camping occurs between 10:00 p.m. and 7:00 a.m., and revises and expands the examples of what constitutes camping. This bill adds that, in order to commit an offense, a person must have received an official warning not to engage in camping on state property and either continued to camp on state property or returned within 24 hours of the warning to continue to engage in camping. Under present law, items used to illegally camp on state property are subject to seizure and forfeiture. This bill instead establishes a process by which any items used to illegally camp on state property may be taken into state custody and disposed of; provided, notice of the seizing agency's contact information is posted near the scene of the seizure, the property is held for 90 days during which time the owner may reclaim the property after payment of a reasonable storage fee, and the property is not needed for evidence in a criminal proceeding. This bill provides immunity from liability to state government agencies and their agents who are involved in seizing property that is used to illegally camp on state property. This bill increases the punishment for illegal camping on state property from a Class A misdemeanor to a Class E felony with a mandatory minimum sentence of 30 days imprisonment and an order of restitution for any property damage or loss incurred as a result of the offense;
(14) This bill generally prohibits the release of a person arrested for any of the following offenses for 12 hours from the time of the arrest: camping on state property, vandalism of government property, rioting, aggravated rioting, inciting a riot, or obstructing a highway. A magistrate may release the defendant in less than 12 hours, if the magistrate makes written findings that the defendant is unlikely to resume the criminal activity based on the circumstances of the arrest and the defendant's criminal history; and
(15) This bill authorizes the attorney general and reporter to investigate and prosecute violations of state criminal law when the district attorney general with jurisdiction over the violation indicates an intent not to investigate or prosecute and the victim is a state employee who was acting in the employee's official capacity at the time of the violation, state property was damaged or destroyed as a result of the violation, or the administration of state government was delayed by the violation at a significant cost to the state. In conducting any such investigation or prosecution, this bill authorizes the attorney general and reporter to request and receive investigative assistance from the TBI, make presentments to the grand jury, receive the cooperation of the district attorney general who declined the case, and request the appointment of a district attorney general pro tem to prosecute a case.
ON AUGUST 12, 2020, THE SENATE ADOPTED AMENDMENT #1 AND PASSED SENATE BILL 5, AS AMENDED.
AMENDMENT #1 makes the following changes and additions to this bill and present law concerning criminal offenses:
(1) Makes mandatory the $5,000 fine for the Class A misdemeanor of assault against a first responder and the $15,000 fine for the Class C felony of aggravated assault against a first responder, as described in sections (2) and (3) of the Bill Summary. This amendment specifies that, for purposes of both offenses, POST-certified law enforcement officers, instead of law enforcement officers generally, are first responders;
(2) Adds entry or remaining on property and recklessly damaging the property, or person property located thereon, to the types of conduct that constitute the offense of aggravated criminal trespass. This amendment increases the penalty for aggravated criminal trespass on state property from a Class B misdemeanor to a Class A misdemeanor. This amendment also adds that aggravated criminal trespass is a Class E felony when committed on the residential property of a law enforcement officer, active duty member of the military, judge, or elected or appointed official and with intent to harass such person based on their public status;
(3) Adds to the types of conduct that constitute "damage" for purposes of the offense of vandalism by including the intentional marring, marking upon, or defacing, in a temporary or permanent manner, state or local government property or any entrance or curtilage to or fixture on the property, with the exception of temporary marking of sidewalks. This amendment further adds to the punishment for a person convicted of vandalism against government property or merchandise offered for retail sale by a retail merchant by requiring that the court ordered restitution include cleaning or restoration expenses, if applicable. Also, in cases of vandalism against government property where the value is less than $2,500, this amendment generally sets the minimum penalty as a Class A misdemeanor, except in cases where the property is designated as a historic landmark or listed on the national register of historic places, in which case the offense will be classified based on the value of the property. In addition, this amendment imposes a mandatory $5,000 fine for a second or subsequent act of vandalism against government property;
(4) Enhances the penalty for obstruction of a highway or other public way, as described in (11) of the Bill Summary, to a Class E felony if the obstruction prevents an emergency vehicle from accessing a highway or street, the obstruction prevents a first responder from responding to an emergency, or if the obstruction prevents access to an emergency exit;
(5) Adds disruption of a meeting or procession to the list of offenses to which the 12-hour hold described in (14) of the Bill Summary will apply;
(6) Specifies that making or preparing to make a fire, doing any digging or earth breaking, or sleeping or making preparations to sleep are camping activities regardless of whether or not such acts occur between 10:00 p.m. and 7:00 a.m. for purposes of the Class E felony of illegal camping on state property. This amendment removes this bill's requirement that a person receive notice from an official that camping is prohibited and then continue illegally camping on state property before committing an offense. This amendment also restores the present law classification of the offense of illegal camping on state property to a Class A misdemeanor and adds a requirement that any court sentencing a person for violating such offense must order at least 50 hours of community service and restitution for property loss or damage, including clean-up costs;
(7) Removes the provisions concerning the powers of the attorney general and reporter that are described in (15) of the Bill Summary;
(8) Authorizes the TBI to investigate crimes against state employees or contractors, that result in the damage or destruction of state property, or that delay the administration of state government at a significant cost to the state;
(9) Requires the district attorneys general conference shall file a report by January 1 of each year with the speakers of the senate and house of representatives and the chairs of the judiciary committees of the senate and house of representatives. The report must detail by geographic location within this state the aggregate number of reports of potential violations of criminal offenses that this amendment authorizes the TBI to investigate under (7), the action taken by the appropriate district attorney for each report, and the legal disposition of any case resulting from each report;
(10) Enhances the punishment for pointing a laser at first responders under certain circumstances. Under present law, it is a Class A misdemeanor offense for a person to knowingly activate and point a laser pointer or other device utilizing a laser beam at an individual known to be a law enforcement officer, firefighter, emergency medical technician or other emergency service personnel while the individual is in the performance of the individual's official duties, with the intent to place the individual in fear of serious bodily injury or death. This amendment imposes a mandatory $5,000 fine and mandatory minimum 30-day jail sentence if the offender knowingly shined or aimed a light, laser, horn, or other mechanism towards the head of a law enforcement officer, firefighter, emergency medical technician, or other emergency service personnel while the individual was in the performance of the individual's official duties with intent to cause bodily injury; and
(11) Changes this bill's effective date from October 1, 2020, to September 15, 2020.
ON AUGUST 12, 2020, THE HOUSE SUBSTITUTED SENATE BILL 5 FOR HOUSE BILL 5, ADOPTED AMENDMENTS #2, 3 AND 6, AND PASSED SENATE BILL 5, AS AMENDED.
AMENDMENT #2 incorporates the provisions of Senate Amendment #1 and does the following:
(1) Restores the introduced bill's requirement that a person must receive notice from an official that camping is prohibited and then continue illegally camping on state property before committing an offense. This amendment also restores the introduced bill's classification of the offense as a Class E felony and removes the requirement for mandatory community service described in (3) of the Summary for Senate Amendment #1; and
(2) Restores the introduced bill's requirements regarding the district attorneys general conference's report so that the report will only be required once by January 1, 2022, instead of being an annual reporting requirement.

TLRC Position

We support these revisions and encourage their strict enforcement in order to discourage the kind of destructive behavior that has been prevalent and undeterred in more liberally governed cities across the nation.

TLRC Observed Process

Passed on a largely partisan basis. Rep. John DeBerry gave an impassioned address defending these measures on the house floor on 8/12/20: http://wapp.capitol.tn.gov/apps/BillInfo/Default.aspx?BillNumber=HB8005&ga=111 Click on the top item HB8005 and go to 3:11.

Vote Result: Passed

Score: +5

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