New TN Law Tracks Domestic Violence Offenders with Protections Directly to Victims

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Governor Bill Lee signed into law legislation which adds a technological protection to domestic abuse victims as conditions of a defendant’s bail, beginning July 1, 2024.

Any defendant charged with the “offense of stalking, aggravated stalking, especially aggravated stalking, any criminal offense against a person in which the alleged victim of the offense is a domestic abuse victim, sexual assault victim, or stalking victim, or is in violation of an order of protection” must wear as a condition of bail a global positioning system which not only indicates to the court and its representatives the whereabouts of the defendant, but also alerts the victim themselves within a set proximity.

This geopositioned zone of safety is created by a radius of protection set around the victim, as set by the judge and courts. Warnings are sent directly to the victim via a cellular device used only for the purpose of their protection to permit a buffer of protection and an alert.

Tennessee’s Bureau of Investigation reports in data released from the full year of 2022 that 4,273 incidents of domestic violence involved the use of a firearm or asphyxiation (choking), making their domestic abuse charge include aggravated assault. This population, had Tennessee’s new law been in effect, would have had their release and terms of bail to include GPS monitoring as a requirement.

Tennessee Senate Bill 1972/House Bill 2692 passed the Senate Chamber unanimously, and in the House with one singular opposing vote in the Chamber of 99 representatives, Justin Pearson (D-HD86-Memphis).

A provision of the law also requires the offender to pay the cost of the device with any deemed indigent having the cost of the device covered by the indigency fund established for such purposes.

The National Domestic Violence  Hotline (NDVH) has published data on the two types of escalation which occurs in domestic violence–gradual and sudden. Both can eventually escalate to “full escalation,” which is defined to be the “dangerous time when the abuser is using violence to show the power they have over the victim.”

The NDVH notes that about 75% of physical injuries in an abusive relationship occur when the victim attempts to end the relationship and seek help.

The intent of the law, created by legislation sponsored by Tennessee Senator Paul Rose (R-SD32-Dyersburg) and Tennessee Representative Clay Doggett (R-HD70-Pulaski), is to enhance the protections of victims of abuse and violence, which too often end in tragedy.

The name of the legislation soon to be enacted as law is “The Debbie and Marie Domestic

Violence Protection Act.” The title was in honor of a middle Tennessee mother and daughter, Debbie Sisco and Marie Vasos, who were stalked, shot and killed by Marie’s estranged husband in April 12, 2021, before the murderer turned the shot gun on himself after the existing legal system failed as the assailant’s behavior escalated swiftly and violently. Good policy protects and respects life. All of it.