New Tennessee law permits greater dissemination of sex offender info

An individual charged with a sex crime in Tennessee can face serious consequences. Indeed, not only can a sex crime conviction result in possible jail time and/or fines but sex offender registration as well. And, once an individual is required to register as a sex offender in Tennessee, much of his or her personal information - such as his or her name, address and date of birth - suddenly becomes public knowledge and available for anyone to access.

However, while this information has long been made available by the state government, a new law recently passed by Tennessee lawmakers now permits local governments to proactively publish this information as well. In fact, this new law represents a significant change in how information related to sex offenders is publically distributed in Tennessee.

New Tennessee sex-offender notification law

As mentioned above, the personal information of sex offenders has been available to the public for years. Indeed, under Tennessee law, a person need only visit the Tennessee Bureau of Investigation's website to inquire as to whether a certain individual is registered as a sex offender. Not only does this website list an offender's name, address and date of birth, but also his or her race, gender, physical description, license plate number and employer's address, among other information.

However, while this particular system relied upon people seeking out these records, Tennessee's new sex-offender notification law allows local governments to disseminate sex offender information even if members of the public do not request it.

Specifically, the new law states that any county of municipal government may establish a "community notification system" that automatically notifies residents when a registered sex offender moves into the neighborhood or community. Importantly, this notification can take many forms, including:

  • Publication of the notice in a local newspaper, or posting electronically on the internet
  • Publication of the notice using a community notification flyer, which can be mailed or hand delivered to all legal residences in the specified area
  • Publication of the notice by the sheriff's office or police department to residents located within a certain distance of the offender's residence
  • Publication by posting a copy of the notice in a prominent place within the sheriff's office or police station
  • Notifying homeowners associations within the immediate area of the offender's residence

Interestingly, this law also permits the local legislative body to charge each offender $50 every year as a "notification fee."

Legal assistance may be necessary

If anything, this new law merely illustrates just how public an individual's life becomes following a sex crime conviction. Consequently, if you are currently facing charges in Tennessee related to a sex-crime, it is often best to seek the counsel of an experienced criminal defense attorney. A knowledgeable attorney can explain your options and help ensure your rights are protected throughout the process.