Utah's Sex Offender Registry has been seen as a tool to help encourage public safety. Individuals who have been convicted of sex offenses are placed on the registry along with their current address, photograph, and conviction record.
Placement on the registry typically means a life of hardship. Felons are difficult to employ and the stigma associated with being on the registry carries heavy social consequences. Those on the registry often face isolation and are ostracized from the community.
Due to the severity of the consequences, a review has taken place of the offenses that qualify a person to be placed on the registry. The questions have been asked:
1. Does the registry adequately serve the purpose of public safety when those that are on the registry do not pose a risk to the public?
2. Is it equitable to maintain registered status for those who do not pose a public safety risk?
To understand these questions, it is important to know which offenses qualify someone to be placed on the registry. Rather than enumerate the offenses, many of which are unspeakable, let us suffice to say that the list is long and disturbing.
Obviously, many of these crimes are so unfathomable they warrant registration...even for a lifetime. However, not all of these offenses are of equal gravity. Three offenses are of the least severity on the list (click for a legal definition):
Two of them are what we would consider "statutory rape" crimes and the third would be a "peeping Tom" offense. However, when placed on the registry, these offenders are treated the same as violent rapists and pedophiles.
Do these offenders pose an equal threat to public safety and therefore warrant the same treatment as their violent and deviant counterparts? If a 23 year old dates and has a consensual sexual relationship with a 17 year old, when convicted, he or she will be placed on the registry until they are 33. There is an ironic real life case of a man in Cache Valley who was 19 and had relations with his 15 year old girlfriend. He was convicted, fined, and the two married upon his release. He is on the registry to this day and has restrictions placed on where he can live and what places he can go with his four children.
HB 13 has been proposed by my colleague in Cache Valley to help navigate this sensitive subject. Rather than create a blanket solution, the law allows for elected judges to decide with the help of input from victims. Here are the key provision of the bill:
1. It allows for a person who has been convicted of the following crimes to petition the court for removal from the Sex Offender and Kidnap Offender Registry after five years:
. unlawful sexual activity with a minor; or
. a misdemeanor violation of voyeurism
2. Requires that the person have successfully completed any court-ordered treatment and not have any subsequent convictions.
3. Requires that a copy of the petition be delivered to the prosecutor and victim, or if the victim is still a minor, the victim's parents.
4. Gives the court discretion to order the person removed if it determines that the person is no longer a risk to society.
As someone who knows many victims and offenders of the more egregious crimes, I believe that this legislation will still preserve justice in our execution of the law and continue to provide for public safety. Yet, I believe it will also provide civic redemption for those who are deemed worthy of it by our courts. I understand that many of those affected by more egregious crimes will have strong feelings about this legislation. I sympathize and ask that the legislation be reviewed on its merits. As the father of four young daughters, I support this bill.