NASHVILLE – The State Senate has approved legislation sponsored by Senator Rusty Crowe (R-Johnson City) toughening penalties for those convicted of injuring someone while evading arrest. The “Officer Gary Daugherty Act” is named for a Washington County sheriff’s deputy who was seriously injured while deploying a spike strip to stop a car driven by a fleeing robbery suspect. Daugherty sustained serious injuries that have required multiple surgeries and intensive physical therapy.
“This legislation strengthens our law to place additional jail time and fines on those who injure others during a high speed chase while evading capture,” said Senator Crowe. “Officer Daugherty’s injuries highlight the reason this bill is needed to protect both our police officers, who put their lives on the line to protect the public; and innocent bystanders who are in the path of the fleeing suspect.”
Under current law, a person can be prosecuted for Class D felony for “creating a risk of death or injury to innocent bystanders or other third parties.” A Class D felony offense is punishable by 2 to 12 in prison and a fine of $5,000 on first offense. However, if a bystander is injured or killed, the punishment remains the same. Crowe said Tennessee’s aggravated assault statute by recklessness, which also may apply in these situations, is a Class D felony as well. Senate Bill 1783 rewrites the state’s evading arrest law to require that a person be charged with a Class C felony if someone sustains serious bodily injury as a result of a suspect evading arrest in a motor vehicle. The Class C offense elevates penalties to 3 to 15 years in prison and a fine of $10,000 on first offense.
“This bill may not ease the pain and suffering of Officer Daugherty, but I hope that it does help in making it clear that such actions by a fleeing suspect will not result in a slap on the wrist,” added Crowe. “This legislation puts teeth in the law by making penalties more in line with the severity of this crime.”