After three years of effort a bill that enhances penalties for crimes based on the targeting of victims has passed the Utah State Legislature.
Senate Bill 103, Victim Targeting Penalty Enhancements, passed the House and the Senate and is on its way to Gov. Gary Herbert’s desk.
Sponsored by Sen. Daniel Thatcher, R-West Valley City, whose district includes part of Tooele County. SB 103 enhances penalties for crimes when the judge or jury that decided the facts of a case determines the victim was targeted based on certain personal attributes.
Victim selection by personal attributes targets not just individuals, but they are an attack on entire groups or communities, according to Thatcher.
“We treat crimes individually all the time with aggravating and mitigating circumstances,” Thatcher said. “There is a fundamental difference between painting a swastika and the words ‘Die Jew’ on a synagogue and spray painting your girlfriend’s name on an overpass.”
Personal attributes listed in SB 103 include: age, ancestry, disability, ethnicity, familial status, gender identity, homelessness, marital status, matriculation, national origin, political expression, race, sexual orientation, service in U.S. Armed Forces, status as an emergency responder or a law enforcement officer.
The bill does not create protected classes of people. After a person has been found guilty of a crime, the penalty is enhanced only if it can be proved to the judge or jury that the the victim was selected because of one of the personal attributes, according to Thatcher.
“The fear from these crimes is very real,” said Sim Gill, District Attorney for Salt Lake County.
If it is determined that the victim was selected for one of the personal attributes listed in the bill, the penalty for the crime will be enhanced by one notch. A class C misdemeanor would become a class B misdemeanor, a class B misdemeanor would become a class A misdemeanor, and a class A misdemeanor would become a third degree felony.
While SB 103 has been heralded by some supporters as a hate crime bill, when Thatcher first introduced the idea of victim selection three years ago, he went through great lengths to explain that he was not introducing a hate crime bill.
“I’m not proposing the creation of any new crime,” Thatcher said. “And I’m not outlawing hate. That’s not constitutional.”
SB 103 passed in the Senate with a 18-11 vote. Sen. Scott Sandall, R-Termonton, whose district includes Lake Point, Stansbury Park, West Erda, Grantsville, Wendover, Dugway, Rush Valley, Vernon, and Ophir, opposed the bill.
In the House, SB 103 passed 64-9. Reps. Merrill Nelson, R-Grantsville and Doug Sagers, R-Tooele, voted for the bill.