Proposed House Bill 3283/Senate Bill 3347 which would have eliminated Pre-trial Diversion was before both the Tennessee House and Senate Judiciary Committees on March 30th. Both committees heard testimony from all sides, including the Public Defenders Conference, the District Attorneys Conference, and the Tennessee Association of Criminal Defense Lawyers. Only the House Committee voted, and the bill was defeated 7-5. Pretrial diversion is used for first-time offenders accused of misdemeanors or minor felonies. It was created in 1974 to help people who have made a mistake in judgment avoid a trial or guilty plea by agreeing to serve an immediate term of probation, and if they stay out of trouble for the duration of that term the charges are dropped and they can have their records wiped clean again. Over the last 10 years, approximately 250 people have completed a pretrial diversion program in Nashville alone. Pretrial diversion is not as popular or commonly used as judicial diversion though. Judicial diversion works similarly, yet is at the discretion of the judge and occurs only after a conviction at trial or a conditional guilty plea.
Along the same lines, House Bill 3538/Senate Bill 2901 which would increase the mandatory drug testing fee from $100 to $250 and impose fines on granting of pretrial or judicial diversion has also been on the calendars in the House and Senate Judiciary Committees. On March 23rd, the House voted 5-3 to recommend the bill for passage and the bill is on the Senate Judiciary Committee calendar for hearing on April 7th. The fines are to be deposited in a new state fund called the TBI Drug Chemistry Unit Drug Testing Fund. Monies deposited in this fund are earmarked to fund forensic scientist positions, maintain and upgrade equipment and supplies, provide training for employees, and other uses determined to improve the efficiency of the TBI.