Dozens of new public safety laws affect Tennesseans

Becky Campbell • Updated Jun 25, 2017 at 10:26 AM

If you see a purple tree, don’t hear your neighbor shooting a gun or come upon a disabled car along the roadside, you’ll be glad you reviewed this partial list of Tennessee public safety-related laws going into effect Saturday.

These measures were passed during the 2017 Tennessee legislative session:

Move over for everyone.

You already know about the “Move Over” law and how it applies to emergency vehicles and tow truck vehicles, but as of July 1, the law is extended to any vehicle parked alongside the road. Specifically, the law requires “a motor vehicle to yield the right-of-way by making a lane change, if possible, or reduce speed and proceed with due caution when approaching a stationary motor vehicle that is giving signal by use of flashing lights and located on the shoulder, emergency lane, or median.”

Save your hearing

You’ll no longer have to worry about hearing those pesky guns being fired as a new law allows for the sale of a firearm silencer. The "Tennessee Hearing Protection Act," deletes the prohibition on possession, manufacture, transport, repair, or sale of a firearm silencer. Until Saturday, it had been illegal to have such a device.

DAs may be packing

The state law allowing off-duty law enforcement officers to carry a firearm is now extended to “district attorneys general and similar persons to carry firearms subject to training and certification requirements if certain requirements met.”

Domestic violence convictions require relinquishing firearms

If a defendant intends to plead guilty in a domestic violence case, and they possess any firearms, judges must now let them know they must relinquish ownership of the weapons. The new law also sets out a procedure for a person convicted of domestic violence to terminate their possession of all firearms.

Shoplifters beware

A new law expands the offense of theft “to include evading a component of an anti-shoplifting device, interfering with a fire alarm system, or using any artifice or article to commit or facilitate a theft.” That means if you cut off a security device or remove an item from the packaging where a sensor is located, or pull a fire alarm to divert attention from your thievery,  it’s considered a theft. In addition to that, habitual thieves now face more jail time with a fifth or subsequent conviction in a two-year period.

Keep the roads clear for emergency vehicles

Drivers can now be charged with obstruction of public highways and streets where such an obstruction restricts emergency vehicles access to the area. It’s a Class B misdemeanor punishable by a fine of $200.

Public employees held to higher standard

Public employees convicted of misdemeanor offenses committed in the course of the person’s job are now ineligible for suspended prosecution and pretrial diversion. The law had already applied to elected and appointed state and local officials, but extends it to all public employees.

Police officers’ addresses private

If you release the address of a law enforcement officer to the public, you could get charged. As enacted, the law “creates the misdemeanor offense of unauthorized release of a law enforcement officer's residential address to the public, punishable as a Class B misdemeanor if the release is criminally negligent or a Class A misdemeanor if intentional.”

Juvenile victims’ identities protected

Law enforcement can no longer release the names of minors who are victims of a crime. As enacted, the new law “makes the identifying information of the minor victim of a criminal offense confidential and not open to inspection by members of the public, unless a court waives the confidentiality at the request of the minor's custodial parent or legal guardian.”

Religious desecration sentence increased

Anyone who intentionally desecrates a place of worship or burial will face more serious repercussions. The crime had been a Class A misdemeanor — which carries up to 11 months, 29 days in jail —  but as of Saturday will be a Class E felony, punishable by one to two years in prison.

Monitoring sex offenders

Anyone placed on probation after July 1 for an offense that would classify them as a child rapist or child sexual predator will be monitored by a satellite-based monitoring and supervision program if they do not “maintain either a primary or secondary residence.” The monitoring would extend to the full extent of the person’s term of probation.

Purple means stay away

If you come across property with purple paint on trees, it’s now an allowable notification for no trespassing. The new law “authorizes property owners to provide notice that trespassing is prohibited on their property by marking trees and posts with purple paint as an alternative to posting signs.”

Borders are not meant to be broken

And one last note — if a person illegally returns to the U.S. after a previous deportation, there is now an act that establishes an enhanced sentencing factor for any conviction that may occur.

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