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.)

 


Volkswagen Celebrates 200 Million Vehicles Produced

The Volkswagen Group has now produced 200 million vehicles. Volkswagen is one of the few manufacturers in the world to have reached this total. At the Group evening, the sports car study Volkswagen XL Sport made its world debut as the 200 millionth Group vehicle. On the occasion of the production record, actress Catherine Deneuve, founding chairperson of “Cinema for Peace”, received ... (click for more)

Chattanooga Business Calendar Oct. 4 - 11

Monday, Oct. 6 Startup Week Chattanooga Presents David Weinberger noon-1:30 p.m. Chattanooga Public Library – 4th Floor: 55 E. Main St. Startup Week Chattanooga programming will officially begin with a keynote address from David Weinberger, a nationally-acclaimed author and researcher at Harvard’s Berkman Center for Internet & Society. Widely recognized for his books Too ... (click for more)

Teen, 17, Charged With Aggravated Rape In Attack On 69-Year-Old North Chattanooga Runner

A 17-year-old has been charged with aggravated rape in connection with an attack on a 69-year-old runner in North Chattanooga on Monday morning. The teen was identified by Juvenile Court officials as Diontae Smartt. Authorities said he has given a confession. Smartt has a detention hearing Thursday at 12:30. The incident happened at approximately 7:30 a.m. ... (click for more)

Berke Implements New Pay Plan For Chattanooga Fire Department

Mayor Andy Berke joined the International Association of Fire Fighters (IAFF) and leadership of the Chattanooga Fire Department to unveil the department’s new pay plan Wednesday afternoon. At a press conference at Fire Hall #1 on Main Street, Mayor Berke and IAFF Local 820 President Jack Thompson signed a memorandum of understanding which sets forth regular raises for fire ... (click for more)

Keep John Roberts, Commissioner Of Red Bank - And Response

It has been a week since the Red Bank Neighborhood Pride Association held their candidate forum at Red Bank Middle School. I was privileged to have been asked to moderate the affair. What follows is my interpretation of the current issues facing the citizens of Red Bank and, at the end, a summation of whom I feel should be elected and whom I will be voting for personally. First, ... (click for more)

Roy Exum: My October Garden

Hark! It is the first day of October and, as I make my monthly stroll through the garden, I find a growing numbers of leaves and acorns. Autumn leaves are beautiful while acorns are nuts, thus you will get the idea as we make our monthly awards: A PRETTY LEAF to Phil Hughes after the Minnesota Twins pitcher came within one inning of earning a $500,000 bonus this season. The deal ... (click for more)