Utah Legislature Modifies Unlawful Sex with a Minor Laws

In the latest legislative session, the Utah Legislature changed the law for Unlawful Sexual Conduct with a Minor, Utah Code § 76-2-304.5. The previous version of the law made it unlawful to engage in “sexual conduct” with a minor between the ages of 16 and 18 if the perpetrator was found to be ten or more years older than the minor at the time of the conduct.

Now, the law divides the offense into two categories of offenders: (1) offenders that are ten or more years older than the minor at the time of the conduct, or (2) offenders that are between seven and ten years older than the minor at the time of the conduct.

For those offenders between seven and ten years older than the minor at the time of the sexual conduct, the new statute requires that the perpetrator “knew or reasonably should have known the age of the minor.” For offenders ten years or older than the minor at the time of the sexual conduct, the State does not have to prove that the offender knew or should have known the minor was between the age of 16 and 18. The amended law specifies that offenders that are ten years or older than the minor cannot claim they were mistaken or unaware of the minor’s age, but this defense is available to the class of offenders that are seven to ten years older than the minor. See Utah Code § 76-2-304.5.

For the full text of the changes to the bill, visit the Utah Legislature website at: HB0010.html. The Governor signed the bill into law on March 22, 2013.

It is unclear in the amendment how the State of Utah will go about proving how a defendant “knew or reasonably should have known” that a victim was between 16 and 18 years of age at the time of engaging in unlawful sexual conduct with them. Much like other crimes that depend on proof of a defendant’s mental state at the time of the offense, the State of Utah will likely have to rely on circumstantial evidence. For example, if an alleged offender were to pick up the victim from a high school, a jury might be convinced that the offender knew or should have known that the victim was between 16 and 18 years old.

This addition to the Unlawful Sexual Conduct with a Minor statute broadens the scope of the law, making it possible to prosecute more individuals. At the same time, the change complicates the prosecution of those found to be between seven and ten years older than the minor. If you or a loved one has been accused of a sex crime, it is in your best interest to contact an experienced sex crime attorney to help navigate through the ever-changing laws criminalizing sex crimes and achieve the most positive outcome for you and your family.

LDS Bishop

Damned if you do, damned if you don’t.

That’s what one LDS Bishop dealt with recently. A girl told her father that a teenage relative had sexually abused her. The father didn’t believe his daughter, so he had their church Bishop talk to his daughter to determine if she was telling the truth. Before she spoke with her Bishop, the police had already been notified and were investigating. When the girl met with the Bishop, he said that he didn’t think it was a good idea to talk to police until he talked to the relative and his parents. For that reason, prosecutors charged him with a third-degree felony of witness tampering and class B misdemeanor failure to report child abuse.

Ultimately, the prosecutors dismissed the charges. But now, this Bishop has a stain on his reputation that cannot be easily erased. This is what sex crime charges do: they ruin reputations. Even though the Bishop was innocent of the charges and was trying to do the right thing, the police and prosecution decided to charge first and ask questions later.

If a person is about to be charged with a crime, it is beneficial to hire an attorney who can sometimes prevent the charges from even being filed. If charges are ultimately filed, then an aggressive attorney can defend those charges.

No More Salt Lake Vice Squad

How’s this for an undercover sting operation?

  • “an undercover detective violated department policy by touching a masseuse’s vagina while she was rubbing him”
  • “a detective who kissed the prostitute’s breasts… argued it was not a policy violation since he had no control over her placing her breasts in his face”
  • “an undercover detective touched the legs of a masseuse as the detective inquired whether the woman would massage him while topless”
  • “detectives in at least three cases in 2011 violated the department’s ‘no touch policy.'”
  • “vice detectives were not booking evidence into storage in a timely manner”

These were the findings of the Utah Civilian Board review of police action. Because of these bad police actions, the Salt Lake City Chief of Police has disbanded the vice squad. Police officers will no longer be setting up stings to catch illegal massages.

If you are charged with a sex crime involving the former vice squad, call an attorney that can help you navigate your issues. There may be police misconduct!

Utah Sex Offender Registry Changes

Is justice served when a 23-year-old who dates and has a consensual sex with a 17-year-old be put on the sex offender registry next to someone who has raped a 5-year-old?

No. The crimes are different and they should be punished differently.

The Utah Sex Offender Registry is intended to provide the public with information on individuals who have been convicted of certain crimes, which include:

Kidnapping; Child kidnapping; Aggravated kidnapping; A Felony or Class A Misdemeanor violation of Enticing a minor; A Felony violation of Unlawful sexual activity with a minor; Sexual abuse of a minor; Unlawful sexual conduct with a 16 or 17 year old; Rape; Rape of a child; Object rape; Object rape of a child; A Felony violation of Forcible sodomy; Forcible sexual abuse; Sexual abuse of a child or aggravated sexual abuse of a child; Aggravated sexual assault; Sexual exploitation of a minor; Incest; Lewdness (4 convictions required for registration); Sexual Battery (4 convictions required for registration); Lewdness involving a child; Aggravated exploitation of prostitution; Aggravated Human Trafficking; Sexual Exploitation of a Vulnerable adult; Custodial Sexual Relations (person in custody under age of 18); A Felony or Class A Misdemeanor Violation of Voyeurism; Sodomy of a child.

As you can see from the list, these are very serious charges. But a blanket approach is not good and the Utah Legislature is responding to that criticism with H.B. 13 – Offender Registry Review.

Under the new law, offenders convicted of unlawful sexual conduct with a 16 or 17 year old, unlawful sexual activity with a 14 or 15 year-old minor or voyeurism could petition a judge for removal from the registry after 5 years instead of 10 years. The offender must complete all required counseling and broken no other laws since their sexual offense. The judge gets the final say to whether the person will be removed early.

According to the Salt Lake Tribune’s reporting of Utah Department of Correction statistics, “there are about 6,900 sex offenders on Utah’s list. Of those, 167 are registered for unlawful sexual conduct with a 16 or 17 year old, 747 for unlawful sexual activity with a minor and 18 for voyeurism.”

This bill will allow individuals convicted of unlawful sexual activity and misdemeanor violations of voyeurism to get their lives back on track after 5 years instead of 10. It is a common sense compromise between proponents of the sex offender registry and people who believe that the sex offender registry is unfair.

You can track the status of the bill at http://le.utah.gov/~2012/bills/hbillint/hb0013.htm.

S.L.C. Let’s Beat the O.C.

The LA times reported an Orange County teacher accused of being sexually involved with one of her students. Band teacher, Carlie Atterbury was accused of having a sexual relationship with one of her 15 year old students for over a year. Prosecutors said that “The two regularly met at Attebury’s home and exchanged sexually explicit text messages”.  Atterbury is being tried January 2011.

 What does this mean for Utah? Just because our school districts are populous, juveniles beware of sexual relations with a school teacher.

Flashing is a Crime in Utah

In recent weeks, Salt Lake and Davis counties have had a rash of incidents involving one of more flashers. Earlier this week, Farmington Police arrested a 34 year old Layton man believed to have exposed himself to 10 women. According to police the man said it was a “turn on and a thrill for him” to expose himself. Police are unable to determine at this time if this is the same person connected to reports of a nude man in the Mill Creek Canyon area.

In Utah, a person is guilty of Lewdenss if he or she commits a sexual act in front of another in public which does not amount to rape, object rape, forcible sodomy, forcible sexual abuse, aggravated sexual assault or an attempt to commit such offenses in a public place or under circumstances which the person should know will likely cause affront or alarm to, on, or in the presence of another who is 14 years of age or older. It includes acts such as sodomy or sexual intercourse, exposing the private areas of the body, masturbating, and other acts which could be considered “lewd” by a reasonable person.

It is a class B misdemeanor if this a first or second offense however it is a third degree felony if convicted of lewdness two or more times or if you are a convicted sex offender. If the act is committed in from of a child (someone under 14 years of age) then it is a class A misdemeanor. Here in Utah, public breastfeeding is exempt from  lewdness statutes even if some area of the breast is exposed.

If you have been charged with an offense which may violate public decency laws contact an attorney for advice.