‘Truth In Sentencing’

Beginning this month, Tennessee has added a list of new crimes that apply to its “Truth In Sentencing” time-served requirements.

“Truth In Sentencing” started as a general trend among many states in the 90s in response to federal grant incentives and backlash from the potential for early release of certain criminal offenders. While the details vary state to state, “Truth in Sentencing” refers to the laws which mandate a certain amount of time be served and laws which restrict or deny the chances of parole/early release/credit.

Tennessee has had a set of “Truth in Sentencing” laws even prior to the 1994 Crime Act, which established incentives through funding for jails and prisons for those who met federal requirements. Since then, Tennessee has continued to add to the list certain crimes that would require the vast majority of a sentence be served without credits or possibility for early release. Generally, it requires that those convicted of violent crimes serve at least 85%-100% of the sentence, depending on what the specific conviction was.

Proponents for the law argue that while mandating longer sentences will cost more, it should also reduce recidivism rates, increase deterrence, and lead to further grants and support from the federal government. Opponents argue that the cost for requiring longer sentences is too much, despite the federal support, and that the laws don’t have a tangible effect on either deterrence or recidivism.

As of July 2022, the following convictions have been added to the 100% time served mandate:

  • Attempted 1st Degree Murder

  • 2nd Degree Murder

  • Vehicular Homicide (resulting from intoxication)

  • Especially Aggravated Kidnapping

  • Especially Aggravated Robbery

  • Carjacking

  • Especially Aggravated Burglary

The following convictions will mandate at least 85% of the sentence be served:

  • Aggravated Assault

  • Voluntary Manslaughter

  • Vehicular Homicide (resulting other than from intoxication)

  • Reckless Homicide

  • Aggravated Kidnapping

  • Involuntary Labor Servitude

  • Trafficking Persons for Forced Labor

  • Aggravated Robbery

  • Aggravated Burglary

  • Aggravated Arson

  • Possessing a Firearm During Commission or Attempt of a Dangerous Felony

  • 3rd Conviction of Manufacture/Delivery/Sale of Controlled Substance (A/B/C fel)

  • Criminally Negligent Homicide

For the majority of these crimes, and the other crimes listed under the statue, credits or eligibility for earlier release is restricted. However, the details for any specific conviction vary, and the legislature is continually updating the list. For the most accurate information, you should read over TCA § 40-35-501, and consult an attorney about your case. For a free consultation with one of our experienced criminal attorneys, please call us at (423) 829-1043.