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.)

 


Miller And Martin Names Nashville Attorney To Head Health Care Practice Group

Miller & Martin PLLC announced that Nashville attorney David Lewis will head the health care practice group for the southeast firm, according to Jim Haley, chairman. Mr. Lewis joined Miller & Martin’s Nashville office in May after serving as the vice president and associate legal counsel at LifePoint Hospitals in Brentwood.  He will be responsible for the ongoing ... (click for more)

Michael Williams Has Law License Suspended

Michael Gregory Williams, of Hamilton County, was suspended from the practice of law on Thursday by Order of the Tennessee Supreme Court for four years.  The suspension will begin on Nov. 9. A Petition for Discipline was filed on Oct. 30, 2013, alleging that Mr. Williams had misappropriated funds from an estate for which he had been appointed administrator and had failed ... (click for more)

Chickamauga Lock To Reopen As Soon As Next Thursday

The U.S. Army Corps of Engineers Nashville District  plans to reopen Chickamauga Lock to all navigation traffic as early as next Thursday. An inspection of the upper gate anchorage and a repair plan were completed today. Chickamauga Lock closed on Monday after a routine inspection revealed a crack in the anchorage of the upper gate. Lt. Col. John Hudson, commander ... (click for more)

Downtown Chattanooga Apartment Complex That Brought $3 Million Profit Exempt From Most Taxes Until 2022 Under PILOT

A downtown Chattanooga apartment complex that recently was sold at a $3 million profit is exempt from most property taxes through 2022 under a PILOT (payment in lieu of taxes) agreement.   No payment of school taxes was included in the deal for Walnut Commons at Walnut Street and Aquarium Way.   The only taxes due on the property for the next eight ... (click for more)

A Vote For Education Is Critical In Tennessee

In a state where just 28 percent of eighth graders are proficient in math and 33 percent are proficient in reading according to national assessments, education is deserving of more attention in 2014 elections. Across the country, more parents are making informed decisions about their child’s education, but for Volunteer State parents without resources, choices are difficult to come ... (click for more)

Roy Exum: Saban: ‘Ratings Don’t Matter’

When the first College Football Playoff rankings were released earlier this week, Alabama football coach Nick Saban got it right on the button when he shrugged, “I don't even care, to be honest with you." "To me, none of it matters, What does it matter?” he laughed at the Tide’s No. 6 ranking. “I mean, it only matters where you end up at the end. So what matters to us is how ... (click for more)