After little debate, a committee of senators approved a bill that would allow some sex offenders to petition a judge for early removal from the sex offender registry.
HB13, sponsored by Rep. Jack Draxler, R-North Logan, would allow offenders convicted of unlawful sexual conduct with a 16- or 17-year-old or unlawful sexual activity with a 14- or 15-year-old minor to attempt gaining the early removal. They must have completed all required counseling and broken no other laws since their sexual offense.
The bill originally allowed for voyeurism, but Draxler removed it because that could involve an offense against someone younger than 14.
He presented his bill to the Senate Judiciary, Law Enforcement, and Criminal Justice Committee Monday afternoon.
Draxler sponsored the bill after hearing from a Utah man who is on the registry. The man was 19 years old and had a consensual relationship with a 15-year-old girl. The man was convicted of a sex crime and placed on the registry for 10 years despite the fact he eventually married the girl and they now have four children together.
Opponents have expressed concerns that this bill could reopen old wounds for victims of sex offenders because they will be notified of a sex offender's petition and given the chance to contest it. Others also worried that everyone convicted of these two crimes would attempt to petition a judge.
Former lawmaker Brian Allen, who sponsored the bill that created the Sex Offender Registry, told an earlier House committee that he formed the registry to allow Utahns to assess threats in their neighborhoods or volunteer organizations. He said keeping people on the registry who do not pose a threat weakens its effectiveness.
The bill passed unanimously and moves to the Senate for further debate.
Erin Alberty contributed to this story.