The Tennessee State Senate gave final approval on Monday night to legislation sponsored by Senator Ken Yager (R-Harriman) which makes state or local officials who have committed a crime during their term of office ineligible for consideration of either pre-trial or judicial diversion.
Judicial diversion is the process in criminal law when a person pleads guilty to a crime and can later have the charge removed (or expunged) from their record following a period of probation. It is granted by the judge, hence its name “judicial.”
“Tennessee is blessed with good state and local officials,” said Senator Yager. “I dare say that 99 percent of the men and women who hold office are conscientious and hardworking. It is really the one percent of officials who have abused the trust given to them who should not be allowed to have their slate wiped clean by either pre trial or judicial diversion.”
A person is eligible for judicial diversion in Tennessee if they do not have a previous class A misdemeanor, felony conviction, or never received diversion or had their record expunged before. Those charged with a class A felony, a class B felony, a sexual offense, or a DUI are not eligible for judicial diversion under state law. Senate Bill 2566 would simply add a criminal offense committed by an official in the executive, legislative or judicial branch to the list of those which are ineligible for judicial diversion, if the crime was committed in their official capacity or involve the duties of their office.
“As officials, we ask for these jobs,” Senator Yager said. “The citizens who allow us to serve do not expect us to solve every problem, but they do expect us to exercise good judgment and to stay honest. We have all heard that adage that a public office is a public trust. Public officials must be held to a higher standard. The privilege of diversion should not be allowed to wipe the slate clean of an official who has disgraced himself during his or her tenure in office.”
The bill now goes to the House of Representatives where it is sponsored by Representative Ryan Haynes (R-Knoxville). It is scheduled for a hearing in the House Judicial Subcommittee on Wednesday.