State v. PriceAnnotate this Case
The Supreme Court reversed the judgment of the court of criminal appeals affirming the judgment of the trial court ruling that certain portions of the Public Safety Act of 2016 (the PSA) were facially unconstitutional on grounds of separation of powers, due process, and equal protection, holding that the constitutionality of the PSA provisions at issue was not ripe for consideration by the trial court.
Defendant A.B. Price, Jr. attempted to plead nolo contendere to sexual battery, and defendant Victor Sims attempted to plead guilty to aggravated assault. The trial court declared the portions of the PSA facially unconstitutional, accepted Defendants' pleas, and inserted in each judgment the special conviction that the probated portion of defendants sentences were not subject to the PSA. The court of criminal appeals affirmed. The Supreme Court reversed, holding that the constitutional issues identified and ruled upon by the courts below were not ripe for adjudication.
Authoring Judge: Chief Justice Jeffrey S. Bivins
Trial Court Judge: Judge Donald E. Parish
In early January 2017, Defendant A. B. Price, Jr., attempted to plead nolo contendere to two counts of sexual battery, and Defendant Victor Sims attempted to plead guilty to three counts of aggravated assault. Both Defendants had reached plea bargains with the State, and each of the pleas included a term of probation. The trial court declined to accept the pleas and requested the parties to return for a later hearing to present proof and argument regarding the constitutionality of certain portions of the Public Safety Act of 2016 ( the PSA ), which has the practical effect of authorizing the Tennessee Department of Correction ( DOC ) to address at least some probation violations, a role up to this point reserved exclusively to trial courts. After the hearing, the trial court ruled portions of the PSA facially unconstitutional on grounds of separation of powers, due process, and equal protection. The trial court subsequently accepted the Defendants pleas and inserted in each judgment the following special condition: The probated portion of the Defendant s sentence is not subject to the Public Safety Act; rather, the Defendant shall be subject to the rules and regulations governing probation applicable through pre-existing law (law in effect prior to January 1, 2017). The State appealed, and the Court of Criminal Appeals affirmed the trial court s judgments. We granted the State s application for permission to appeal. We hold that the constitutionality of the PSA provisions at issue was not ripe for consideration by the trial court. Accordingly, we reverse the judgments of the trial court and the Court of Criminal Appeals. We remand this matter to the trial court for further proceedings consistent with this opinion.