UPDATE: New laws combatting human trafficking and aiding victims of domestic abuse and rape went into effect this past week

Jul 05, 2021 at 11:15 am by WGNS

UPDATE: Major legislation combatting human trafficking and strengthening protections for victims of rape and domestic violence are among 203 new laws that became effective late last week. 

According to Senate Judiciary Committee Vice-Chairman Dawn White of Murfreesboro, enactment of the new laws continues the General Assembly’s ongoing efforts to combat human trafficking and domestic violence in Tennessee and provides greater protections for crime victims. 

The human trafficking laws that took effect last week on July 1st included:

Legislation sponsored by White adding those convicted of one or more predatory sex trafficking offenses to the category of sexual predators who are ineligible for early parole or release before completion of their full sentence;

Legislation sponsored by White removing the statute of limitations for any commercial sex trafficking offense committed against a child on or after July 1, 2021 to give victims which are often traumatized or suffer fear of retaliation more time to report;

Legislation sponsored by Senator Becky Massey (R-Knoxville) requiring law enforcement officers to alert the Department of Children’s Services when they take a minor into custody on charges of prostitution so the child can be placed in a safe home and receive any professional assistance they may need to recover;

Legislation sponsored by Senator Janice Bowling (R-Tullahoma) establishing certain considerations regarding the use of deadly force by victims of human trafficking, even if the victims are engaged in illegal activity or in a location they are not legally allowed to be, if they are forced into the situation as a result of their status as a human trafficking victim; and

Legislation sponsored by Senator Paul Bailey (R-Sparta) authorizing law enforcement officers or the district attorney to require the disclosure of wire and electronic communications for evidentiary purposes to crack down on human trafficking offenses organized through social media platforms.

“The legislation passed this year continues our efforts to combat this horrendous crime,” said Sen. White.  “We must continue to work to protect those who are at risk of exploitation and trafficking and to provide help for victims as they recover.”

In addition, the 2021-2022 budget which take effect Thursday as the new fiscal year begins provide over $5 million in funding for key groups fighting human trafficking and supporting victims.  The General Assembly’s efforts in fighting human trafficking has earned Tennessee Shared Hope International’s highest rankings for holding traffickers accountable and protecting survivors.

Among key laws to protect rape and domestic violence victims is a new Truth in Sentencing law which requires those convicted of rape, sexual battery, and felony domestic assault to serve the full sentences imposed by a judge or jury.  The bill was sponsored by Lt. Governor Randy McNally and Senate Judiciary Committee Chairman Mike Bell (R-Riceville).

The Jim Coley Protection for Rape Survivors Act of 2021, a victim-centered bill that provides more transparency regarding the rape kit backlog process, also takes effect on Thursday.   The new law, sponsored by Bell, makes sure the handling procedure of rape kits is responsive, reliable and consistent. 

In addition, the new law requires the TBI to develop and implement an electronic system that tracks the location and status of each rape kit and gives victims access to the system through a tracking number.  Victims must also be notified 60 days before destruction or disposal of the evidence.  

Finally, victims subjected to stalking and domestic violence will be aided by major legislation set to take effect on July 1.  The new law, sponsored by Bell, allows a victim of a felony offense of assault, criminal homicide, attempted homicide, kidnapping, or sexual offenses to file a petition for a lifetime order of protection against their convicted offender.  It also permits service of ex parte orders of protection for up to one year from issuance.   

For a list of key laws that will take effect on Thursday click here.

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