Tennessee Restitution Bill Moves Forward During Victim’s Rights Week

Image Credit: Tennessee Department of the Treasury

Published April 22, 2021

The Tennessee Conservative Staff –

Tennessee’s Victims’ Rights Bill continues to advance through the legislature, after passing in the Judiciary Committee on Tuesday, April 20. This bill aims to put the victims of a crime first.

The bill would change when restitution is paid out to these victims, making sure they receive the money before any fines or taxes are paid.

Tennessee Capitol Building in Nashville

The current law sees restitutions as a condition of probation and not a civil judgment. Currently, litigations, fines, and more are paid off with the restitution before any money is credited toward the victim.

The Victims’ Rights Bill, SB 893, “makes an order of restitution entered by a sentencing court into a final civil judgment at the time of entry. This bill also extends, from one year to two years, the time within which a victim of crime may file a claim with the criminal injuries compensation fund.”

Senator John Stevens is the sponsor of the Senate bill with co-sponsor Mike Bell. The House version of the bill, HB0870, is sponsored by Representative Clay Doggett, with co-sponsors Griffey and Lamberth.

Americans for Prosperity, the District Attorney’s Conference, and the Administrative Office of the Courts have all shown their support.

An amendment to the bill says, “the first money paid in a case shall first be credited toward the payment of restitution owed to the victim, if any, and once restitution has been paid in full, the next money shall be credited toward payment of litigation taxes, and once litigation taxes have been paid, the next money shall be credited toward payment of costs; then additional money shall be credited toward payment of the fine.”

The bill passed through the Judiciary Committee, in the middle of Victims’ Rights Week with a 9-0 vote, and has been moved to the Senate Calendar Committee.

During the Committee, Chairman Mike Bell, said, “This is an issue we’ve talked about for years. We like to talk about criminal justice reform, we like to talk about helping victims, but this one really makes us put our money where our mouth is. We move restitution to number one and victims will get paid first before the government gets paid. It’s where it should have been all along.”

The Director of the Tennessee division of Americans for Prosperity, Tori Venable, issued a statement about the advancement of the bill.

“Restoring victims is a key component of criminal justice reform,” the statement said. “The status quo of court-ordered restitution being paid to victims last, if at all, needs to change. Victims should get made whole first before the state collects all other court costs, fines, and fees.”

The statement also said, “We thank sponsors Senator John Stevens and Representative Clay Doggett, the District Attorney’s Conference, and the Administrative Office of the Courts for partnering with us to right this wrong. Given this is Victims’ Rights Week, we find it fitting that SB 893 passed the Senate Judiciary Committee today and we encourage continued bipartisan support for passage in both chambers.”

Senator Jon Lundberg spoke out during the Committee to show his support for the Victims’ Rights Bill.

“Just one comment, one word,” Lundberg said. “Exceptional.”

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