On Tuesday, Tennessee will be even less friendly to sex offenders as new legislation heightens oversight of offenders’ Internet activity.
Registered sex offenders in Tennessee will be required to provide the sex offender registry with Internet account information, including e-mail address, user names or instant-message screen names. Offenders must notify a probation or parole officer of any changes of that information within three days of the change, the law states.
The sex offender law also requires probation or parole officers to notify the Tennessee Bureau of Investigation of any such changes.
This information will not be available to the public, Tennessee Bureau of Investigation officials said.
The new law is one of more than 200 pieces of legislation that go into effect Tuesday, ranging from the regulation of tattoo parlors to the monitoring of elementary school art supplies.
NEW SEX OFFENDER LEGISLATION
* Registered sex offenders in Tennessee now will be required to provide the sex offender registry with Internet account information, including e-mail addresses, user names or instant-message screen names. They must notify a probation or parole officer of any changes in that information within three days.
* Sex offenders who do not provide an address — such as the homeless — will be required to report monthly to their local registering agency (police department, sheriff’s office), rather than quarterly or annually.
* All aliases, including previous married names, must be reported.
* Every sex offender on the registry must provide a DNA sample; current law only requires offenders who committed offenses after July 1, 1998.
* Offenders whose crime was against a minor will not be allowed to work in direct, unsupervised contact with a minor or operate a vehicle, such as an ice cream truck, for the purpose of attracting minors.
SOURCE: Tennessee Bureau of Investigations
Also among the new laws:
* HB2564 requires a parent or guardian of a minor to provide proof of guardianship or custody when providing permission for a minor’s tattooing or piercing.
* HB3233 increases the punishment for second and subsequent violations of the “move over” law. The law requires motorists approaching a vehicle with flashing lights to move to the left lane if they’re on a four-lane highway or slow down if changing lanes is impossible or unsafe. The new law also clarifies that a “move over” violation that results in threat of injury or death can be punished as a criminally negligent homicide, reckless homicide or vehicular homicide.
* HC3322 requires that art supplies purchased by any school for use by children in kindergarten through sixth grade must be certified as nontoxic by the Arts and Creative Materials Institute.
The new sex offender law will protect children who are vulnerable to the advances of sexual predators on the Internet, said state Sen. Jamie Woodson, R-Knoxville, who sponsored the bill in the Senate.
“There are sex offenders who are using the Internet to really take advantage of young children under the cloak of anonymity,” she said. “This law will do very much what we intended the registry to do, which is to let law enforcement officers and the public know what identities these folks are utilizing.”
Local defense attorney Jerry Summers said the new law is “part of an overall pattern of the Tennessee General Assembly to maintain very tight control on sex offenders in the state of Tennessee.”
The oversight can make it difficult for offenders who have gone to counseling and who are remorseful to get jobs and become productive members of society, he said.
“There are some people that may deserve to be punished, but (for others) it’s almost like a life sentence for a one-time mistake,” he said.
Another law that takes effect Tuesday is a 100 percent increase in the shipping-and-handling fee that must be paid for new license plates or decals from county clerks’ offices. The cost will increase from $1 to $2 to compensate county governments for the increased cost of mailing, Hamilton County Clerk Bill Knowles said.
The county clerk’s office often handles more than 75,000 tag registration renewals each year, Mr. Knowles said.
“It’s reached a point, with the cost of postage, that the Legislature gave the counties some relief in that cost,” he said.
Health care reporter Emily Bregel has worked at the Chattanooga Times Free Press since July 2006. She previously covered banking and wrote for the Life section. Emily, a native of Baltimore, Md., earned a bachelor’s degree in American Studies from Columbia University. She received a first-place award for feature writing from the East Tennessee Society of Professional Journalists’ Golden Press Card Contest for a 2009 article about a boy with a congenital heart defect. She ...