A bill passed out of a Senate committee today that would allow offenders who are on the sex-offender registry and the kidnap-offender registry to be able to petition the court to have their names removed from the list. The offenders could only be those who meet certain conditions and who had unlawful sexual contact with minors when the age difference is not substantial.
Rep. Jack Draxler, R-Logan, argued that his House Bill 13 was a long time coming in allowing some of the least dangerous offenders a chance to redeem themselves and be taken off the list. The bill would allow those offenders who had unlawful sexual contact with a minor and are not more than 10 years older than the victim, or not more than 15 years older than a victim who is 16- or 17-years-old, the chance to get off the registry after five years of not breaking any laws except traffic violations.
Doing so means completing any court-ordered treatment, paying fines and giving victims or prosecutors an opportunity to hold a hearing to explain why the offender should not be taken off the registry.
Draxler pitched the bill to the Senate Judiciary, Law Enforcement and Criminal Justice Committee by referencing the case of a man who was 19 when he had sex with his 15-year-old girlfriend. Even though the man served time for his offense and afterward married his girlfriend and started a family with her, he still lives with the stigma of being on the state sex-offender registry list.
“Almost 10 years down the road and he is still on the sex-offender registry,” Draxler said. “He cannot take his kids to the park, he cannot attend parent-teacher conference. It’s affected where he can live and his employment.”
Draxler worked with various stakeholders including the Utah Council on Victims of Crime to ready his bill for this session, legislation that he hoped would give “the least egregious offenders” a chance to redeem themselves while also being respectful of victims.
A private citizen, who was the mother of a victim of a sexual predator, worried that the bill would attract sex offenders from out of state to come to Utah to have a chance to get cleared from their crimes. She also challenged that judges who review the records of petitioning offenders might not have the whole picture since they wouldn’t be able to access offender’s juvenile records—something that hit home for her since her child had been victimized by a repeat offender she said had victimized many other individuals when he was a juvenile.
Ron Gordon, director of the Utah Commission on Criminal and Juvenile Justice, admitted the bill would not consider juvenile records, but also added that the bill language would not allow offenders from other states to come to Utah to be able to be removed from the registry.
Draxler argued that the bill would not cast a “wide net,” and by taking some offenders off the registry would strengthen its effectiveness.
“In our system of justice, we don’t sweep up all the guilty and some who are innocent, just be sure we ‘get everybody,’” Draxler said. “Our system is based on the merits of each individual case. We want predators and pedophiles to be known to the public, but if we have people who don’t belong there, the value of the registry is compromised.”
The committee agreed and unanimously passed the bill out of committee with a favorable recommendation.
If you want to find your legislator so you can contact them about this bill, click here.
If you want to contact HB 13 sponsor Rep. Jack Draxler, R-North Logan, about the bill, click here.
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