Penalties for Sex Offenses in Utah

The Utah legislature has increased rather than decreased the minimum mandatory term of imprisonment for sexual offenses against children in recent years. It has done so without making any change in the sentencing statute to limit the number of consecutive sentences that a court may impose upon a defendant who is convicted of multiple offenses with relatively high minimum mandatory requirements. 

Although the vast majority of these prosecutions involve a person with no prior criminal record, Utah law also provides for enhanced penalties if the defendant has a prior conviction for a "grievous sexual offense."

The penalties also include a requirement that any person convicted of a sex crime register as a sexual offender. The length of registration depends on the type of offense committed and the time that it was committed.

Contact an experienced criminal defense attorney in Salt Lake City, Utah, at Brown, Bradshaw & Moffat, LLP to discuss your pending charges. After an allegation of a sexually motivated offense, don't make any statements to law enforcement until you have retained a lawyer to represent you.

Call (801) 532-5297 today to discuss your case with an attorney experienced in defending sex crimes


Grievous Sexual Offenses

Grievous Sexual Offenses are used in the calculation and consideration of enhanced penalties. If during the course of the trial, the trier of fact finds that the defendant has a prior conviction for a Grievous Sexual Offense, the penalty may be life without the possibility of parole (“LWOP”).

Utah law has defined numerous “Grievous Sexual Offenses” including: 

Any felony conviction for an attempt to commit one of the above or an offense committed in another state, territory or district of the U.S. that if committed in Utah would also constitute an offense described above.


Offenses with Alternative Minimum Sentences

The prior law directed the court in cases that carried the option of three alternative minimum sentences of 6, 10 or 15 to life to sentence to the middle severity of 10 to life. If the trier of fact found sufficient aggravating circumstances, they could enhance the sentence to 15 to life. If the trier of fact found sufficient mitigating circumstances, they could reduce the sentence to 6 to life. The law now instructs the court to order 15 to life. 

If the court finds that it is in the best interest of justice and documents on the record the justification, it can reduce the sentence to 10 to life or 6 to life. The offenses to which these provisions apply are:

  • Child Kidnapping - § 76-5-301.1
  • Aggravated Kidnapping - § 76-5-302
  • Rape of a Child - § 76-5-402.1
  • Object Rape of a Child - § 76-5-402.3
  • Sodomy on a Child - § 76-5-403.1
  • Aggravated Sexual Abuse of a Child - § 76-5-404.1
  • Aggravated Sexual Assault - § 76-5-405

The following sexual offenses are first-degree felonies and carry a five (5) years to life sentence:

  • Rape - § 76-5-402
  • Object Rape - § 76-5-402.2
  • Forcible Sodomy - § 76-5-403

However, if the trier of fact finds that during the course of the commission of the crime the defendant caused serious bodily injury to another (not necessarily the victim), the court may sentence the defendant to a term of 15 years to life.

Additionally, if the court finds that it is in the interest of justice and states the reasons for this finding on the record, the court may reduce the sentence to 10 years to life or 6 years to life.


Utah’s “Jessica’s Law” 25 Years to Life

If the current conviction is for one or more of the following three sex offenses that qualify as “Jessica’s Law,” the required mandatory sentence is imprisonment of 25 years to life without the possibility of the court suspending or reducing the sentence in consideration of mitigating circumstances:

  • Rape of a Child-§ 76-5-402.1
  • Object Rape of a Child-§ 76-5-402.3 
  • Sodomy on a Child-§ 76-5-403.1

A conviction for an Attempt to Commit § 76- 4-102 or Solicitation to Commit § 76-4-204 any of the above three offenses is punishable as a 1st Degree Felony with a minimum sentence of 15 years to life. If the court finds that a lesser sentence is in the interests of justice and states the reasons for this finding on the record, it may reduce the sentence to 10 years to life, six (6) years to life, or 3 years to life.


Increases in Penalties for Sexual Offenses Against Children

The penalties for offenses against children in Utah have increased in recent years as well. Those increases in punishments include the following:

  • Utah Code Ann. § 765–301.1(3) provides that first-degree felony child kidnapping is punishable under ordinary circumstances by “imprisonment for an indeterminate term of not less than 6, 10, or 15 years and which may be for life”
  • Utah Code Ann. § 76–5–403.1(2)(a) provides that first-degree felony sodomy on a child is punishable by “not less than 15 years and which may be for life”
  • Utah Code Ann. § 76–5–301.1(3) provides that first-degree felony child kidnapping is punishable by a term of imprisonment “not less than 15 years and which may be for life.”  Utah Code Ann. § 76–5–403.1(2)(a) provides that first-degree felony sodomy on a child is punishable by “not less than 25 years and which may be for life”
  • Utah Code Ann. § 76–5–402.1(2), the legislature increased the minimum term of imprisonment for a rape of a child conviction to “25 years and which may be for life”)

Another factor to consider is the fact that the legislature has not chosen to adopt any limitation on the number or effect of consecutive sentences. In fact, under the plain language of the statute, the only limitation on consecutive sentences continues to be the requirement that the sentencing court appropriately considers the statutory factors—“the gravity and circumstances of the offenses, the number of victims, and the history, character, and rehabilitative needs of the defendant.” Utah Code Ann. § 76–3–401(2). 


Additional Resources

Utah Laws Regulating Registered Sex Offenders- Visit the Utah Department of Corrections for more information on Utah's laws about registered sex offenders such as off-limit zones, requirements for registration, and length of registration. Registered sex offenders in Utah face limitations as to where they can travel, how often they must update their information on the registry, and whether they can invite a child to accompany them anywhere. The five protected areas that are off limits to those convicted of sex crimes are daycares or preschools, pools open to the public, public or private primary/secondary schools, community parks open to the public, and playgrounds open to the public.

Sex and Kidnap Offender Registry - Visit the Utah State Legislature for more information on the penalties that come along with a sex crime. This chapter on the Utah State Legislature website explains definitions such as kidnap offender and sex offender.


Attorney for Sex Crimes in Salt Lake City

If you are under investigation for a sexually motivated offense such as forcible sexual abuse, unlawful sexual conduct with a minor, rape, sexual abuse of a minor, or any other sex crime then contact an experienced criminal defense lawyer at Brown, Bradshaw & Moffat, LLP.

With offices conveniently located in Salt Lake City, we are ready to meet with you to discuss your case. Find out what you need to do right now to protect your rights.

Our lawyers represent clients in Salt Lake County and the surrounding areas including Davis County, Utah County, Wasatch County, Summit County, Morgan County and Tooele County.

The attorneys at Brown, Bradshaw & Moffat, LLP represent men and women charged with rape or sexual abuse crimes throughout Greater Salt Lake including the communities of Riverton, Holladay, the City of Taylorsville, Magna, Kearns, Midvale, Herriman, Copperton Township and Millcreek, Utah. Call today for a free consultation at (801) 532-5297.


This article was last updated on Tuesday, July 5, 2016.