By Meg Dickens
The Johnson County Commissioners unanimously passed a resolution to raise specific court costs during their Thursday, September 19 meeting. If the budget committee approves this resolution, crimes that have a victim will have an additional $45 fee imposed on those who plead guilty, are found guilty, or plead nolo contendere to specific crimes to be determined by Circuit and General Sessions Court Clerk Melissa Hollaway.
“First of all, I am in full support of the Child Advocacy Center. It’s wonderful and does a lot of good for our children,” said Hollaway. “I would rather see the money go to someone helping the children.”
All but $3 of this charge goes directly to help children in the area through the Children’s Advocacy Center (CAC). The CAC works in conjunction with law enforcement, Child Protective Services, juvenile court, mental health professionals, medical professionals, and the district attorney’s office in four counties to help child victims as efficiently and noninvasively as possible. Executive Director Samantha Prater presented the proposal after County Attorney Perry Stout brought the motion to the floor. The Tennessee Code Ann. § 40-24-109 statute gives Tennessee counties this right.
“The county legislative body of any county may elect to establish a program to assist victims of crime, their families and survivors or to provide funding or additional funding for an existing program established to assist victims,” reads the statute.
According to CAC records, the organization served 63 Johnson County children in the 2018-2019 period. Two-thirds of these children are female. Locally 70 percent of alleged offenders are 18 years and older and are either an unknown person or parental figure. Statistically, 63 percent of reported abuse in Johnson County was sexual abuse and exploitation.
Remember that Tennessee is a mandated reporting state. According to the Tennessee Department of Children’s Services, failure to report child abuse is a Class A misdemeanor that can lead to up to 3 months of jail time, a fine, or both. Contact the Child Abuse Hotline at 877-237-004 or www.apps.tn.gov/carat/ to report cases of child abuse. Find out more information on The Tennessee Code Ann. § 40-24-109 statute at www.tn.gov.