Lee Davis: New Tax For Diversion Applicants Is A Bad Idea

Saturday, March 31, 2012 - by Attorney Lee Davis
Lee Davis
Lee Davis

The Tennessee House of Representatives passed a new tax this week that will require people to pay to have their name cleared upon the completion of diversion. HB 2774 (here), sponsored by Rep. Eric Watson, Cleveland, introduces the new tax.  The new part is a $100.00 tax that must be paid to the court when requesting diversion.  Also added is an increase in taxes that will escalate the amount required to clear one's name to $350.00. Thus, the total cost to have a record expunged after diversion will be $550.00 when the local fee for Hamilton County is added.  The house bill has been sent to the TN Senate for passage.

If signed by Gov. Haslam, the law will go into effect July 1st.  This is a bad idea.

Who will this bill affect, and what is diversion? Let's start with diversion; there are two types:  judicial diversion and pretrial diversion.

Judicial diversion is a way many minor cases are settled for first time offenders.  Let's say you have a daughter who is home from college and gets arrested for using her sister's ID to get into a club or who actually drinks in the club.  The offending person is potentially guilty of underage drinking and using a false ID, both crimes.  If the person accepts responsibility and has no criminal record, the court may defer court proceedings without entering a judgment of guilty--with the consent of the prosecutor.  Under this example, the student will now pay $100 to be considered for diversion and $350 more (plus $100 local fee) to have their record expunged after completing diversion.  Previously, the person paid $150.

Pretrial diversion is for those with the least culpability who find themselves ensnared in the legal system. Let's say a person writes a check for a service and then disputes the service, placing a stop-payment order on the check.  The merchant then swears out a criminal warrant for theft of services.  Under this scenario each person believes the other is the culprit. The check writer may find herself in court, charged with a crime.  If the district attorney believes the explanation, he may offer the person pretrial diversion with an understanding that the case will be dismissed and expunged.  Most people, completely innocent people, will accept this disposition rather than endure additional trips to the courthouse to prove their innocence. Under the new law, this person will also be forced to pay $550 to have her good name cleared for actions that she believed were completely honest and ethical.

There is good reason to have records expunged.  Background checks are routine for employers, higher education and many other reasons.  A minor charge--even when explained--often will result in a job or school denial when found on a background check. Diversion is granted one time and only for good cause. The result is that many ordinary people may have their records expunged and reputation restored upon successful completion of diversion.  A modest fee for the service has always been the rule.  This week's action by Rep. Watson and the house will place a new heavy financial burden on many. This new tax will effect every citizen who seeks diversion. Without paying the new application tax, there will be no consideration of an application for diversion.  Without payment of the increased tax, no record will be expunged.  Many across the state who cannot afford these new and increased taxes will be harmed.

(Lee Davis is a Chattanooga attorney who can be reached at lee@davis-hoss.com or at 266-0605.)

 


New Hamilton County Businesses

Here are the new business licenses from the County Clerk's office: A R T 5331 MEADOWBROOK LN CHATTANOOGA, TN 37411 AGNES AND DORA BY RENEE HOOD 1018 N  SANCTUARY RD CHATTANOOGA, TN 37421 AMY'S DOGS AND MORE 1000 OSAGE DRIVE SODDY DAISY, TN 37379 ANGELS AT HAND HOME SITTING SERVICE 8004 BILL REED RD CHATTANOOGA, TN 37421 AUTO DETAIL AND ... (click for more)

Miller & Martin Practices, Attorneys Recognized In 2017 Chambers USA

Chambers and Partners has recognized Miller & Martin in the 2017 Chambers USA: America's Leading Lawyers for Business report as a leading law firm in the practice areas of Labor & Employment, Corporate/M&A and Litigation: General Commercial, and also recognizes six of the firm’s attorneys. Individual lawyers are ranked on the basis of their legal knowledge and experience, ... (click for more)

Fire Destroys Commercial Building On Dodson Avenue

Chattanooga firefighters responded to a commercial fire shortly after 1 a.m. Monday.   Captain Wadie Suttles with Engine 4 said heavy smoke and flames were visible when the first of four fire companies arrived on the scene at 3019 Dodson Ave. As firefighters forced their way inside to began an interior attack, Captain Suttles called for a second alarm response to bring ... (click for more)

Bradley Detectives Investigating Death Of 18-Month-Old Child; Foul Play Not Suspected At This Time

Detectives in the Bradley County Sheriff's Criminal Investigations Division are investigating the death of an 18-month old child that occurred Saturday evening.   Multiple phone calls into the 911 Communications Center led to patrol deputies responding to a residence on Lowery Street, N.E. Upon arrival deputies discovered a deceased child inside the residence, which ... (click for more)

What We Owe Our Veterans

As our church, Warren Chapel AME Church  paid honors to the veterans and my viewing of the PBS feature,  Sunday , evening, I began to feel and think differently than before. Each year to sort of "go all out" celebrating Veteran's Day.  WE provide flags, certificates, notes of appreciation and acknowledgements.  My  brother, father and grandfather were ... (click for more)

Roy Exum: The Good, Bad & Ugly

Last week I came across a wonderful story about one of my favorite personal causes – preventing suicide – and the response to the article (“A Suicide Letter”) was heavy. Many people appreciated what I had gleaned from the “I Am Second” website and, among the emails was a plea for help from a single mother, desperate to help her son. I immediately passed her email “up the ladder” ... (click for more)