Utah’s Sex and Kidnap Offender Registry law needs to be revised to better balance public safety and the rehabilitation of offenders. Under Utah Code Ann. 77-41-105(3)(a), a sex or kidnap offender is required to register for ten years after the termination of sentence or custody of the division. Section 112 allows an offender to petition for removal after five years if a set of strict criteria are met. The criteria include things like compliance with registration requirements, completion of required treatment, no subsequent convictions, and payment of restitution.
But Section 112 only applies to a select list of offenses—kidnapping, unlawful detention, unlawful sexual activity with a minor, and unlawful sexual conduct with a 16 or 17 year old. The list does not include other, lesser offenses like enticing a minor over the internet and does not distinguish between completed crimes and attempts, conspiracies, or solicitations. So, for example, a person could be convicted of unlawful sexual activity with a minor and qualify for early removal while a person convicted of merely enticing a minor to engage in the same act over the internet would be ineligible. These omissions do not appear to be consistent with the legislature’s intent in creating Section 112.
These omissions have real, human consequences. For example, Jeff (name changed to respect privacy) was convicted of attempted enticing of a minor over the internet when he was caught in an undercover sting operation. To be clear, Jeff was convicted of an attempt, not a completed offense and the offense involved only enticement and not sexual activity. He was put on probation, made some mistakes along the way and had his probation restarted. Although he was convicted nine years ago, this restart set the completion of Jeff’s sentence to 2012. Jeff has been working to put his life back together, but it is difficult for someone on the registry to find employment and affordable housing. He has been homeless now for several years and will not be eligible for removal until 2022. If he were eligible for Section 112, he could be removed as early as 2017. But because he was convicted of enticing a minor over the internet rather than actual sexual activity with a minor, he cannot even apply.
The legislature could resolve these issues (1) by expanding Section 112’s list of offenses to include lesser offenses like enticing a minor over the internet while keeping rape offenders ineligible and (2) for these eligible offenses, setting lower requirements that fairly distinguish between offenders that complete the offense and those that only attempt, conspire, or solicit.
Placement on the registry involves a serious forfeiture that should be applied consistently and fairly. These revisions will ensure that the statute strikes the right balance between protecting the public and helping offenders become rehabilitated and rejoin society.