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.)

 


Chattanooga Chamber Calendar Of Events July 24-28

TUES/25 Facebook Advertising Workshop 101 10:30 a.m. – noon  BrightBridge: 535 Chestnut St., Ste 161 This workshop will teach you how to target your ads, find out who your customer is and fine tune your page info. Speaker: Emily Pilkington with BrightBridge Women’s Business Center This workshop is developed and delivered by an e-commerce seller; not a Facebook employee. ... (click for more)

TDEC Offering $4.5 Million In Recycling And Waste Reduction Grants

The Tennessee Department of Environment and Conservation (TDEC) is now accepting applications for recycling and waste reduction grants totaling $4,500,000.   “Since 2015, TDEC has had a renewed focus on supporting local communities in a broader goal to reduce waste across the state while increasing recycling rates,” said TDEC Commissioner Bob Martineau. “These grants ... (click for more)

County School Board Members, Rep. Favors Rap State Take-Over Plans For Low Performing Schools; New Superintendent To Come Up With Community Plan

County School Board members at a Thursday work session took turns rapping a state take-over plan for low performing schools. New Supt. Bryan Johnson said he will work over the next 30-45 days to come up with a community proposal for strengthening the iZone schools. He said, "I'm not sold myself" on some of the aspects of a proposed state partnership with the school district. ... (click for more)

Couple Arrested After 3-Year-Old Boy Brought To Hospital With Serious Injuries

A woman and her boyfriend have been arrested after her three-year-old son was taken to the hospital with serious injuries. Police said the child had a broken left arm, fractured ribs, a lacerated kidney and a skull fracture with bleeding on the brain. Doctors also noticed injuries healing in different stages, "which would indicate different times of injuries." The boy's ... (click for more)

Do Something To Protect Our Children

It is unconscionable in this day and age that these children had to exist in such deplorable conditions and that an innocent baby suffered and died alone in a locked car.  Yes, there is blame and accountability considering this family had child neglect charges filed a few years ago (that were apparently dropped and expunged) and a large part of the responsibility should ... (click for more)

Roy Exum: School Board Shoves Back

The Hamilton County School Board, told that ‘no’ was not an option three months ago when state Education Commissioner Candice McQueen arrived to take over five floundering public schools, may have to ask the Governor to call out the Tennessee Guard. A very vocal School Board shoved a bitter ultimatum right back into McQueen’s lap during a work session Thursday night and showed it ... (click for more)