HB16: Legislature considering how some can get off sex offender registry

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A Utah lawmaker wants to change Utah’s Sex Offender Registry to allow those who have been charged with lesser crimes, such as voyeurism or “enticing a minor,” to be dropped from the Sex Offender Registry after five years.

Utah lawmakers meet Jan. 25 to begin their annual 45-day session.
Utah lawmakers meet Jan. 25 to begin their annual 45-day session.

Rep. Jack R. Draxler, R-Logan, has filed HB16 that would make a change to the current Sex Offender Registry law in Utah. The current law has two registries: a 10-year registry for lesser offenses and a lifetime registry for major offenses. The amended bill would create a new alternative for individuals charged with lesser offenses.

The bill would allow those who have violated Class A misdemeanors,  enticing a minor and voyeurism, to have their names removed from the registry after a period of five years. A process would be put in place for an individual to make a request for removal, but if his or her request is denied by the court then the offender would have to wait three more years in order to put in a new request.

In a legislative committee meeting Nov. 18, Draxler said the bill addresses the issue of juveniles who may had made mistakes when they were young to be given a chance to clear their names.

“We are talking about those who have changed their life … and are trying to move in a new direction without the stigma,” Draxler said.

He emphasized that the bill is not excusing bad behavior, rather, providing more options for those on the registry. In order for an individual’s name to be removed, the offender must complete treatment, pay court-ordered fines, make restitution and maintain an otherwise-clean criminal record.

One citizen who attended the meeting, Angie Fenimore, spoke in favor of the bill. She said the current registry is punitive, but places labels for life on those who have made a single mistake.

The logistics of such an amendment have some individuals concerned. Some worry that this amendment will excuse bad behavior and encourage offenders to commit lesser crimes in order to have a chance at having their name taken off the offender registry at some point. There is also concern that it will cost the courts additional money because more offenders would now be able to request for their names to be removed.

Lawmakers will discuss the bill in the coming weeks after the Utah Legislature opens Jan. 25.