2019 Bills

HB 40: Reducing and Repealing Some Criminal Penalties

This bill passed the House unanimously and the Senate 25-2. 

Libertas Institute supports this bill

Staff review of this legislation finds that it is aligned with our principles and merits support.

This past October, after several deep dive meetings to address Utah’s outdated criminal laws, the legislative Criminal Code Evaluation Task Force unanimously agreed to positively recommend a bill for the 2019 session. The legislation is moving forward as House Bill 40 sponsored by Representative Paul Ray.

Rather than focusing on one area of law like many other bills do, HB 40 addresses a number of unrelated crimes and penalties. For example, one major aspect of the bill is the decriminalization of sodomy and adultery, which are currently Class B misdemeanors. Although no one has been prosecuted under these laws for years, it’s important to change the law to be compliant with the most recent Supreme Court ruling which upholds bedroom privacy between consenting adults.

This bill also deals with sex solicitation crimes by protecting the vulnerable. If a prostitute comes forward to report criminal activity, the bill provides them with immunity from prosecution. This protection also extends to victims of related crime.

Aside from other various technical changes, HB 40 reduces the punishment for intervening with an official proceeding or investigation from a felony to a misdemeanor. It also reduces the penalty for first and second time violations of Utah’s Minimum Wage Act.

This bill is the result of a group of legislators and stakeholders coming together to investigate if change was needed in Utah’s criminal code. They determined a number of areas where keeping penalties high does little for justice, and have decided the best path forward is reform. When sentence lengths remain unnecessarily high, it is burdensome to taxpayers covering incarceration costs, and does nothing to better the individual. It’s better to amend the laws so penalties fit the crime.