State legislators have several bills before them this year that will have an impact on some of the criminal cases coming through the courts, with two of those related to sex crimes.
One bill, if passed, will change the wording in current legislation that addresses adults who use computers or other electronic devices to entice minors into illegal sexual activity.
According to Providence Rep. Curt Webb, House Bill 31 will ensure that the criminal behavior of enticing a minor takes place “at the keyboard,” thus eliminating the need to prove intent.
“People can talk about really terrible things with children and unless they show up, we can’t prosecute them for enticement,” County Attorney James Swink said Tuesday.
There are two areas in the Utah State Code that address this law — the definition of the crime and in a separate section that discusses penalties for crimes.
The wording in each section is inconsistent and provides a loophole in the law that could potentially allow a perpetrator to avoid prosecution for a crime committed.
Enticing a minor is currently a second-degree felony on the first offense, and a first-degree felony on subsequent offenses, with the possibility of three years to life in prison.
Swink said this bill will make it a third-degree felony just to have that kind of conversation with a minor, regardless of whether or not the adult physically meets with the child in an attempt to engage in sexual activity.
There are also amendments that add the use of “other electronic communication devices” to the methods that can be used to entice a minor into sexual activity.
After some debate, the bill — which is co-sponsored by Sen. Lyle Hillyard, R-Logan — passed through the house Jan. 30 with a vote of 58 in favor of the amendments and 16 against.
It is now in the Senate’s judiciary committee for review.
The Senate is also reviewing another House bill this week that corrects a provision in current state code allowing certain sex offenders to petition to have their names removed from the sex offender registry list.
In legislation passed last year, the law states that those convicted of unlawful sexual conduct with a 16- or 17-year old and not more than 10 years older than the victim may seek to remove their names from the registry if specific requirements have been met.
The intent of the bill was to allow the age difference to be up to 15 years.
House Bill 243 sponsored by North Logan Rep. Jack Draxler will make that change if it is approved by the Senate. The House has already voted to approve the amendment.