GOVERNMENT

Bill would create exemptions under stalking laws, concerns raised

Jan 18, 2022, 6:59 PM | Updated: 9:29 pm
Utah rural jobs act...
FILE: The Utah State Capitol on January 18, 2022. Photo: Paul Nelson

SALT LAKE CITY — A bill being proposed on Capitol Hill would relax stalking laws on certain law enforcement officers.  The bill’s sponsor says it would protect investigators who are doing their job, but anti-domestic violence advocates don’t want stalking laws changed.

Stalking laws and “seedy” territory

As an attorney, Senator Todd Weiler sometimes has to work with private investigators who look into certain matters that police departments don’t.  He says they serve a valuable purpose, but the life of a PI can sometimes cross into certain “seedy” territory, with investigators doing things like surveilling people and digging through trash.

Weiler says these investigators are allowed to do things like place GPS devices in cars. But he says the current law leaves PIs vulnerable to criminal charges.

“They have a tough job, and the last thing they want is to be criminally charged for doing their job,” Weiler said.

An exemption in criminal stalking

Senate Bill 56 would create an exemption in the criminal stalking statue for licensed private investigators, police officers and government investigators who are acting in their official duties.  Weiler says this would not apply to police or investigators who are accused of stalking someone for personal reasons.

“This would not give anyone ‘carte blanche’ authority to break the law,” Weiler said.  “It’s basically recognizing that we have licensed you, as a state, to do this job.”

Anti-domestic violence advocate Jenn Oxborrow, LCSW, says Sen. Weiler has been a strong advocate for domestic violence survivors. However, she has reservations about making changes to the state’s stalking laws.

“We’re at risk of getting some unintentional consequences,” she said.

According to Oxborrow, stalkers frequently hire private investigators to either stalk or harass their victims. And that stalking is a major red flag that shouldn’t be ignored.

“At least 80 percent of women who are killed by a former intimate partner, 80 percent, were stalked prior to that homicide,” she said.

Oxborrow is also concerned about current licensing rules for private investigators and whether or not their training is sufficient.

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Bill would create exemptions under stalking laws, concerns raised