Sex offenders in Utah might be able to get names off registry

Jan 4 2012 - 7:31am

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A local lawmaker does not believe Utah will lose any federal funds if legislators tweak the state's sex offender registry.

Rep. Paul Ray, R-Clinton, sponsored a bill in 2008 that changed Utah's sex offender requirements to match the federal guidelines.

"I don't think we will lose any federal funds. Besides, the federal funds that are coming in anyway are minimal," Ray said.

"What is important is to do what is right for the citizens of Utah."

Ray said House Bill 13, sponsored by Rep. Jack R. Draxler, R-North Logan, will allow certain sex offenders to get off the registry early, only if they have made a change in their lives and the judge approves it.

Ray said he was "leery about (the bill) when he first heard about it."

But after listening to testimony at a Judiciary, Law Enforcement and Criminal Justice Interim Committee meeting in 2011, Ray changed his mind.

Ray said the bill does not change how predators are registered.

"Those guys are never coming off the registry," he said.

Draxler said he was approached by a constituent who had a sexual relationship at the age of 19 with a 15-year-old girl. He was charged, convicted, did jail time and has been on the sex offender registry for the past 10 years.

The two ended up getting married and have four children. The man has not reoffended since his conviction.

"He cannot go to the park with his children, and they are limited on where they can live," Draxler said. "He is no longer a threat to the public. He is not the only one out there. There are quite a few like him."

Ray said he, too, has heard from constituents in similar situations.

The bill does allow a person convicted of any of the following three crimes -- having unlawful sexual conduct with a 16- or 17-year-old, having unlawful sexual activity with a minor or committing voyeurism -- to file a request with the court to be removed after five years on the registry.

Currently, those convicted of any of those three crimes must be on the registry for 10 years after they finish their sentences.

According to the Department of Corrections, 6,900 sex offenders are registered 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.

Draxler said those three crimes are the least egregious of the convictions that require a person to register as a sex offender.

"This bill does not make it softer for criminals, but offers redemption for those who change," he said.

Draxler said once people are convicted of any of the three crimes, they must serve their sentence, undergo any counseling or therapy, and have no other convictions except for traffic violations.

And those people will have to petition the court to have their name removed from the registry.

Draxler said the victim, parents of the victim and the original prosecutor will be notified if a person requests to be removed from the registry.

"It will be up to the judge to decide if the person is a risk to society."

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