Utah lawmakers consider changes to stalking laws
SALT LAKE CITY – A constituent of Utah State Representative Candice Pierucci (R-Herriman) wrote his ex-girlfriend a letter on the advice of a therapist to get closure over the relationship. A short while later, he asked the woman to delete a photo featuring his family on her professional Instagram account.
That constituent was arrested and jailed for stalking.
That’s why Pierucci, as well as prosecutors, defense attorneys, and victims’ advocates, are asking for minor changes to Utah’s stalking laws so situations like this do not happen again.
A bill being considered would raise the number of contacts between an alleged victim and perpetrator from two to three. Those contacts would also have to be part of a pattern of behavior.
Pierucci believes it is a step in the right direction.
“Obviously, this is a complex issue. But in adding the continuity of purpose [language] and reviewing the number of acts, this helps us take a more targeted approach and [get] a clearer perspective of what stalking is,” Pierucci said during a Criminal Code Task Force meeting at the Utah State Capitol on Monday.
It’s an idea Salt Lake County Deputy District Attorney William Carlson supports.
“If you do three random, bonehead things, that’s one thing. But if you keep sending texts about your undying love for this person who’s asked you to leave them alone, or tracking somebody over and over again, that’s where you get to the stalking behavior,” Carlson said.
Pierucci said another reason prosecutors are fine with raising the number of contacts is that stalking cases typically involve more than three acts against the victim. It would also make Utah’s law similar to those of several other states.
Lawmakers would still need to flesh out some details to make sure people do not end up in jail for sending three one-word texts. A popular way for younger Millennials and Generation Z to communicate.
Other lawmakers at Monday’s meeting said they’d also like to see tougher penalties if someone commits one or two serious crimes while stalking or is clearly a threat to their victim before the three-act threshold.
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