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New laws aim to strengthen judicial system
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Several new laws passed by the state legislature will impact how criminal cases are handled in Warren County and the rest of Tennessee when they go into effect this summer or the first of the coming year.“We worked hard during this session to get legislation passed that is essential to making our communities safer and our judicial system stronger,” said District Attorney General Lisa Zavogiannis. “It is our job to make sure the punishment always fits the crime and we are making that happen with the passage of several important bills.”Zavogiannis praised the work of Warren County’s legislators, including State Senator Eric Stewart and Representatives Charles Curtiss and Judd Matheny, along with Van Buren State Rep. Bill Harmon for their work in getting the legislation passed into law during the recent session.Some of the highlights of the new laws include:• The Exclusionary Rule Reform provides that evidence seized under an otherwise valid search warrant cannot be thrown out due to an unintentional clerical error or omission by a law enforcement officer or court official.• Rape of a Child Range of Punishment enables judges to increase the sentence for someone convicted of rape of a child.• Aggravated Child Endangerment by Methamphetamine significantly enhances the punishment for making meth when a child is present.• Drive-by Shooting law provides tougher sentence for criminals who shoot into homes, creating a potential three-year prison sentence if the home is occupied and two years if the home is not occupied.• Criminal Gang Surveillance law adds criminal gang activity to the instances where a district attorney can seek a wiretap order.• DUI Implied Consent eliminates a driver’s privilege to refuse testing when charged with DUI or vehicular homicide if the driver has a prior DUI conviction or if there is a child under 16 in the vehicle.• Pre-Trial Diversions were made harder to obtain by eliminating pre-trial diversions for all felonies, DUIs and sex offenses. Plus these will not be available to persons convicted of an earlier Class A or B misdemeanor or if they have received a prior diversion.