After months of protests, Governor Bill Lee revised criminal law related to protesting through a bill he signed on Thursday. The bill creates harsher punishments for protesters with consequences including increased jail time and the loss of voting rights.
Tennesseans guilty of a Class E felony could face up to 6 years in prison and maximum fine of $3000. Those found guilty of any federal charge will lose the right to vote, after five years they may petition to have the charges expunged.
A Class C felony defined as aggravated rioting, assaulting a first responder, causing a riot, or obstructing a highway, carries a mandatory minimum requirement of 90 days in jail with the potential of 15 years as well as a fine up to $10,000.
Critics of the bill have not taken to kindly to it’s passing. Executive Director of the American Civil Liberties Union of Tennessee Hedy Weinberg said in a statement,
“We are very disappointed in Governor Lee’s decision to sign this bill, which chills free speech, undermines criminal justice reform and fails to address the very issues of racial justice and police violence raised by the protesters who are being targeted. While the governor often speaks about sentencing reform, this bill contradicts those words and wastes valuable taxpayer funds to severely criminalize dissent.”
The bill only pertains to offenses occurring on and after October 1, which is when the bill will take effect.