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Tennessee enacts tougher sex offender restrictions

Tennessee enacts tougher sex offender restrictions

Posted: Wednesday, December 31, 2008 9:43 pm

By LUCAS L. JOHNSON II Associated Press Writer NASHVILLE (AP) — Sex offenders will face tougher restrictions and professionals will no longer be exempt from jury duty under two of the new Tennessee laws that take effect on New Year’s Day. The omnibus sex offender law seeks to bring the state more in line with the “Adam Walsh Act,” the sweeping federal law named after the murdered 6-year-old son of “America’s Most Wanted” host John Walsh. Signed in 2006, the Walsh act requires states to adopt strict standards for registering sex offenders and provide public information about their crimes and whereabouts. States that fail to do so risk a 10 percent cut to their share of funds in a congressional grant program used to fight crime. The new Tennessee law requires a sex offender to register within 48 hours with the appropriate law enforcement agency after being released from a nursing home, assisted living facility or mental health institution. It also requires the Tennessee Bureau of Investigation to verify an offender’s death by obtaining a copy of the death certificate, checking the Social Security death index or obtaining a copy of an accident report before removing the offender from the registry. “Tennessee will nearly be in complete compliance with the national standards with these additions,” said TBI spokeswoman Kristin Helm. “The last portion remaining to be passed is in regards to the juvenile portion of the registry.” Senate Minority Leader Jim Kyle said the law is necessary for the welfare of the state’s children. “I’m pleased that we were able to put in place another layer of protection for Tennessee’s children,” said the Memphis Democrat. Also on Thursday, some laws governing juries, jurors and judicial commissions will change. Professionals such as doctors and lawyers, who were once automatically exempt from jury duty or required to perform only limited service, will no longer be exempt. However, the law does make exceptions for hardship cases. “It puts us all in the same jury selection pool,” said David Haines, general counsel for the Administrative Office of the Courts. Other new laws are aimed at stiffening the penalty for drunken driving and boosting confidence in the election process. The DUI law increases the punishment for vehicular assault and vehicular homicide if a child is injured or killed as a result of drunken driving. And the voting law — called the “Tennessee Voter Confidence Act” — requires any voting machine bought or leased after Jan. 1 to be able to create a paper trail that could be used in recounts and random audits. A report released last year by the Tennessee Advisory Commission on Intergovernmental Relations showed only two of Tennessee’s 95 counties keep a paper trail of voters’ ballots. The report recommended all counties adopt the practice. Published in The Messenger 12.31.08

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