Tennessee district attorneys lobby for stiffer penalties for robbery

By Justin Hanson - bio | email

COVINGTON, TN (WMC-TV) - Tennessee currently ranks third in the nation when it comes to violent crime, something one Mid-South attorney says is unacceptable.

Now, District Attorney Mike Dunavant and others are working to change the law.

"You have to understand...aggravated robbery with a deadly weapon is really just a few pounds of a trigger away from a homicide," Dunavant said Thursday.

Dunavant hears thousands of cases per year in his five county district, and says if district attorneys across the state get their way, aggravated robbers should beware.

Dunavant believes first time aggravated robbery offenders do not get the punishment they deserve for such a violent offense.

A bill to increase jail time has already passed the Tennessee House. It is now awaiting approval in the Senate.

"All thirty-one district attorneys and their staff are in support of this, the Tennessee police chief's association and the Tennessee Sheriff's association joins in the coalition in support of this," Dunavant said.

Under the new law, aggravated robbers would not be allowed early release from jail. It would also require first time offenders to serve at least seventy-four percent of their sentences instead of the current thirty percent.

And, it would eliminate jail time for a first time non violent offender.  Instead, it would require the offender get intense supervision through probation.

"When people are unemployed, when there's a divorce and other things, that creates criminal activity and that means more cases for us and more need for prosecutors," said Dunavant.

If passed, the stiffer penalty would go into effect in July of this year.

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