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Perhaps one of the more disheartening aspects of law-making is how some laws come into effect. With very little recognition, a new law was recently signed into effect that can, and likely will, change the effectiveness of law enforcement. Assembly Bill 1810 was recently signed into law as a part of Tennessee’s new budget. However, this law has very little to do with budgeting.
AB 1810 is supposed to be a health bill, but has more prominence in the law enforcement sector. Under this new law, just about anyone accused a crime, regardless of how serious, could claim a mental health issue and ask to be placed on a two year diversion plan. In other words, a person could say they only committed a crime because they have a problem and then the judge would put him or her into a two year course to correct whatever problem the person claims to have. Upon completion of the course, the person’s record would be sealed, making it as if the crime never happened.
The wording of the bill is very vague, and allows for just about anyone to claim some mental health issue. It is easy to see how this can very easily be used and manipulated to get people out of being punished for a crime. What’s worse, is how little attention this big change in law got. It spent less a week going through Sacramento before being approved by both houses and sent to the Governor for final signature. That is not a lot of time to truly evaluate something this substantial.
Of course, there are some people out there who need a program like this. Something like this can get them the help that they desperately need. Unfortunately, the way the bill is worded, it is very easy for someone to take advantage of this change in procedures, and use it to avoid any real punishment altogether.