GOP Gov. Bill Lee signs forceful bill following rioters setting fires inside and outside of courthouse
Following two-month, around-the-clock demonstrations immediately outside the state Capitol doors, the Tennessee legislature approved a bill that includes enhanced mandatory sentences for vandalism, rioting and assaulting first-responders.
House and Senate Bill 8005 requires that protesters charged with unauthorized camping, vandalism of state property, disrupting a meeting and certain other protest-related offenses be held for at least 12 hours without bond. Read the Bill Summary.
The new law, signed by Gov. Bill Lee states that those who illegally camp on state property would now face a Class E felony, punishable by up to six years in prison, rather than a misdemeanor. Felony convictions in Tennessee result in the revocation of an individual’s voting rights.
The Senate passed the bill 26-5 on a party-line vote, with a single GOP member opposing it. The House approved the legislation 71-20.
The law which will take effect on September 15 includes the following measures:
Creates a misdemeanor offense of assault against a first responder for spitting or throwing bodily fluids and felony offense of aggravated assault against a first responder for using a weapon or causing serious injury. The misdemeanor must be punished by a minimum of 30 days in jail and $5,000 fine, while the felony has a minimum mandatory sentence of 90 days and $15,000 fine;
Makes it a felony to trespass on the property of an elected official, law enforcement officer or judge with the intent to harass;
Requires vandals who deface state buildings or entrances to be charged with theft and ordered to pay restoration or cleaning expenses. Those charged with the offense a second time must pay a mandatory $5,000 fine;
Imposes a mandatory minimum sentence of 30 days for a conviction of rioting and 45 days for aggravated rioting;
Makes it a felony to block an emergency vehicle from accessing a street or highway while responding to an emergency call or from blocking an emergency exit door in a building if there is a threat to the health or safety of someone inside.
Tennessee’s response to anarchy-based lawlessness is appropriate and should serve as an example to other states.