Resentencing opportunity likely for drug-free school zone offenders in Tennessee

Moore family.JPG
Posted at 5:01 PM, Apr 18, 2022
and last updated 2022-04-18 21:42:46-04

NASHVILLE, Tenn. (WTVF) — Hundreds of people in Tennessee are serving prison sentences that wouldn't be handed down today.

A law changed in 2020, no longer making it a requirement that people who sell drugs in a school zone must serve a mandatory minimum sentence. However, nearly 400 people sentenced before the law changed were not given a shot at a new sentence.

Any day now, Gov. Bill Lee is expected to sign a bill that allows the courts to change sentences in old drug cases, too. In this legislative session, both the House and Senate passed bills making the drug-free school zone sentencing changes in 2020 become retroactive as well.

"We don't yet know the process of all this, so we're just thankful and hopeful it will be soon," said Teresa Moore.

Teresa and Buel Moore's daughter, Sara, was sentenced to eight years in prison in 2017 for selling methamphetamine in a school zone. She sold four times to a confidential informant who came to her apartment, which happened to be next to an elementary school.

"The law enforcement — of course they had this as tool — the enhanced sentencing, and they knew where to set the buy up," said Buel Moore. "Of course, that doesn't justify anything Sara did, and we're not against punishment, just through learning about the mandatory minimum we are against the severity of that mandatory minimum law."

Two years ago when the law changed, it became up to judges to decide if enhancements were necessary.

"It gave us hope, and I think that even gave us the ability to hope for this retro-activity," Buel Moore said.

Under the 2020 law, mandatory minimum sentences are still required when an offender's conduct actually endangers children. Additionally, school zones were cut down from 1,000 feet to 500 feet around schools, churches, parks and libraries.

A look at the zones with the previous law of 1,000 feet:

A look at the zones with the new law of 500 feet: