The Utah House of Representatives has unanimously supported a bill sponsored by Providence Rep. Curt Webb that is intended to keep criminals from profiting from their crimes.
Webb told The Herald Journal on Friday he is "extremely pleased" with Thursday's vote.
"The House is often kind of the litmus test. There's so many of us in there, so many opportunities for people to express concerns," Webb said. "For it to be a unanimous vote, I think, says a lot about the bill and the importance of the principle involved, which is that criminals should not profit from their crimes."
The bill, “Notorious Criminal Activity Amendments,” changes the state’s existing "Son of Sam" law, nicknamed after a serial killer who terrorized New York City in the late 1970s. Some speculated at the time that David Berkowitz was being offered large sums of money from publishers in exchange for his story.
Other states have "Son of Sam" laws - designed to prohibit criminals from profiting off their crimes, such as through book deals and movie rights - but Webb said some have been challenged in court on constitutional grounds.
"They were challenged in court based on the freedom of speech issue - that you can't tell somebody that they can't do that, and you can't sue them for what they say. So then (states) started to re-craft these laws ... in such a way that people can say what they want to say and their speech is not restricted by law," Webb explained recently. "But if they or their families benefit financially or in any other way profit from it ... then those profits are essentially confiscated and used to pay reparations to the victim that may have been granted in court. Then the balance goes to (the Crime Victim Reparations Fund)."
Webb believes the legislation will pass "constitutional muster" if it is ever challenged.
The bill requires any entity or person who contracts with the convicted individual to pay any profit owed to the fund. Any profit already received must also be remitted to the fund. The Utah Office for Victims of Crime will pay any restitution still owed to the victim, and any remainder will go into the fund.
Webb's bill was introduced in the Senate on Friday.