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Committee supports Daugherty Act

District Attorney General Tony Clark asked Public Safety Committee members for their support of an amendment known as the Officer Gary Daugherty Act that would increase the penalty for evading arrest if a person is injured during the attempt.
Clark presented the proposed amendment to Tennessee Code Annotated 39-16-603 during the Jan. 14 committee meeting.
Under the current statute, evading arrest is a Class E felony. The violation is considered a Class D felony if the flight or attempt to elude creates a risk of death or injury to innocent bystanders or other third parties.
The amendment proposed by Clark would add the option of a Class C felony if the flight or attempt to elude results in death or injury to innocent bystanders or other third parties.
“One of our officers was almost killed, and the most we could get was reckless endangerment,” he said.
Clark was referring to the January 2012 incident during which Washington County Deputy Gary Daugherty was struck by a car driven by a fleeing robbery suspect and two accomplices as he tried to deploy a spike strip.
The critical injuries Daugherty received from being hit at approximately 50 miles per hour required multiple surgeries and more than a year of intensive physical therapy before he was able to return to work.
Originally charged with attempted first-degree murder, the three suspects were eventually convicted of reckless endangerment with substantial risk of serious bodily injury or death for hitting Daugherty.
Clark, who tried the case, said the experience prompted him to ask Sen. Rusty Crowe if the law related to evading arrest could be strengthened.
The cost to implement the amended law would be minimal, according to Clark who hopes the legislation will pass during the General Assembly’s current term.
A motion by Commissioner Sam Phillips to recommend support of the Officer Gary Daugherty Act received unanimous approval from the Public Safety Committee, and the full commission will consider it during the January meeting.