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Lawmaker says it may be time to fix Utah’s sex offender registry?

DISCLAIMER: the following is an opinion piece and does not necessarily reflect the views of KSL Newsradio or its ownership.

Bountiful Republican state Sen. Todd Weiler suggests that maybe it’s time to take a closer look at Utah’s sex offender registry and closer match the punishments to the crimes.
Weiller said some people are placed on the registry for public urination and can’t find a way off of it. The convicted person must register for 10 years or for life, depending on the crime.

Weiler joined KSL’s guest host Ethan Millard on the “The JayMac News Show” to explain the politically tricky issue.

“If the [offender] can check certain boxes, if they got counseling, did community service and stayed out of trouble, there ought to be a way to apply for removal. Not for everyone. Not for the violent, or for child rapists, but for some of them with these lesser offenses,” said Weiler.

“If there’s truly a legitimate child rapist in the neighborhood,” said Weiler, “people have a right to know.” But “if you have someone who was in a consensual relationship; they were in college and their girlfriend was in high school, I don’t think that’s necessarily the same as a child rapist.”

But Millard asked, “How do you know if someone’s a permanent danger?”

“We have tools,” said Weiler. “Now anytime someone’s arrested in Utah,” the courts have a risk assessment and “that will decide if they will be eligible for bail and how much their bail is going to be.”

Weller said the purpose of the legislative hearing on Wednesday was to take another look at the punishments on the sex offender registry that make no sense.

Today, Weiler says, a 23-year-old who has consensual sex with a 17-year-old would not land the adult in jail because it’s a 7-year legal window now. But 10 years ago, it would have put the adult in jail and on the registry. So, Weiler asked, should those offenders who are now on the registry for 10 years have a pathway off it today because it’s no longer a crime?

Under the law, that 33-year-old who may be married with children now can’t go to the park with his kids because he’s on the registry.

“Give them a light at the end of the tunnel,” he said. “There’s no avenue for that now, and that’s why we’re studying the issue.”

“There are people who are saying, “Hey, I’ve got a friend on the registry because they couldn’t find a bathroom. No one can defend that,” said Weiller. “And what about the costs to the taxpayers” because they’re in jail now? he asked.

“Why not this?” asked Millard. “Let’s come up with a meaningful process that really could result in a person dropping off the list. Even the worst offenders could apply, and of course, they wouldn’t get anywhere with it, but at least it would be open. But who would decide” who’s removed from the list?

“The Board of Pardons and Parole or a group analogous to it,” said Weiller.

“As long as these processes are wrapped up with three members of the parole board,” Millard said, “and there are no reporters and no one shows up, any changes that need to be made, are not going to be made,” said Millard. “They’re not politicians, they don’t care about making changes, it’s not what they do.”

Both Millard and Weiller agreed on this point:

“If the sex offender registry doesn’t really reflect people’s attitudes toward the offenses, then it’s not going to be a trustworthy source. It’s robbed of its credibility,” said Millard.

“That’s absolutely true,” Weiler replied.