How the 2021 Legislative Session Changed Criminal Law in Utah

Each year, the Utah Legislature meets for a legislative session that lasts 45 calendar days (starting in January and ending in March). During this session, hundreds of bills* to change the laws in Utah are proposed.

To keep track of the official changes this year, the Office of Legislative Research and General Counsel put together a 54-page document titled Selected Highlights of the 2021 General Session. The details of many of the changes are long and complex, but you can view the entire document on their website.

To help you get a better idea of the types of changes that were made this year, we have compiled a list of the bills (along with some brief summaries) that may impact those individuals who have criminal charges in Utah. If you would like more clarification on a particular change, the expert defense lawyers at Brown, Bradshaw & Moffat are ready to help you learn more about any of the changes.

*HB (House Bill) designates a bill passed in the Utah House of Representatives. SB (Senate Bill) designates a bill passed in the Utah Senate.

Newly Created Offenses

HB0193 Intimate Image Distribution Prohibition

This bill creates the offenses of the unlawful distribution of a counterfeit intimate image and aggravated unlawful distribution of a counterfeit intimate image and imposes penalties.

HB0291 Residential Picketing Prohibition

This bill creates the offense of targeted residential picketing and imposes a penalty.

Expanded Programming

HB0026 24-7 Sobriety Program Expansion

This bill expands the 24-7 sobriety program statewide and allows an individual participating in a drug court to avoid suspension of the individual's driver license.

SB0139 Utah State Correctional Facility Operational Amendments

Among many other changes, this bill notably requires the Department of Corrections to offer offenders program opportunities that are evidence-based, to implement direct supervision where appropriate to reduce violence and enhance offenders' voluntary participation in program opportunities, to develop an individual case action plan for each offender, and requires the sentencing and release authority to consider an individual's case action plan when making decisions.

Amendments to Current Laws

HB0058 Riot Amendments

This bill adds specific sanctions for individuals arrested and convicted of rioting. Notably, it says that a person arrested for rioting must appear before a magistrate before being released and requires the court to order restitution upon a conviction for rioting.

HB0220 Pretrial Detention Amendments

This bill addresses requirements for pretrial release and detention. Some of the notable changes include removal of the presumption of release for a person arrested for certain criminal offenses while the person awaits trial, removal of the requirement that a person eligible for pretrial release be released under the least restrictive conditions, and removes the specific list of additional pretrial release conditions that may be ordered by the court, and removal of the presumption of release for a person arrested for certain criminal offenses while the person awaits trial.

SB0064 Domestic Violence Amendments

This bill modifies the circumstances under which the penalty for certain domestic violence offenses may be enhanced, including that an adjudication in juvenile court is not a conviction for purposes of a penalty enhancement for a domestic violence offense.

HB0064 Factual Innocence Payments Amendments

This bill allows the State Commission of Criminal and Juvenile Justice to pay an individual who is found factually innocent by a court in one lump payment.

SB0051 Group Gang Enhancement Amendments

This bill modifies the sentencing enhancements and applicable offenses for certain crimes committed in concert with multiple people or on behalf of criminal street gangs. Notably, it increases the number of additional people necessary for an offense to be enhanced under certain circumstances.

SB0215 Sex Offender Registry Amendments

This bill includes a number of changes and updates to allow certain offenders to be removed from the Sex and Kidnap Offender Registry

SB0098 Asset Forfeiture Amendments

This bill amends provisions related to asset forfeiture. Among many things, it reduces the length of time for an agency to present a written request for forfeiture to a prosecutor, allows an agency or prosecuting attorney to release property to an innocent owner, and prohibits the forfeiture of property seized upon the sole offense of possession of a controlled substance.

Revisions to Current Laws

HB0047 DUI Revisions

This bill makes changes to bail provisions for DUI offenses and creates a presumption of pretrial detention for individuals charged with certain DUI offenses.

HB0255 Protective Order Revisions

This bill modifies provisions relating to protective orders. Among many things, this bill modifies the circumstances under which a violation of a civil protective order is a civil offense, modifies the circumstances under which a provision of a cohabitant abuse protective order may be modified or dismissed during a divorce, parentage, custody, or guardianship proceeding, and adds sexual battery as a qualifying offense for protective orders.

SB0165 Sex Offender Registry Revisions

This bill makes changes to the process and requirements for individuals who petition for removal from the Sex and Kidnap Offender Registry. Most notably, it requires that the Department of Corrections automatically remove individuals from the Sex and Kidnap Offender Registry who qualify and that the department shall notify an individual who is removed that they have been removed.

Changes Related to Minors

HB0285 Juvenile Recodification

The changes in this bill are quite extensive. It includes amendments, repeals, reorganization, renumbering and statute enactments. Changes range from amending the notice requirements for removal of a child from the home or placement of the child in protective custody, clarifying the requirements and punishments for contempt of court in the juvenile court, and requiring the Division of Juvenile Justice to provide prenatal and postnatal care to a pregnant minor who is in secure detention or secure care. See the state website for the complete list.

HB0158 Juvenile Interrogation Amendments

This bill addresses the interrogation of minors who are in custody for an offense. It includes a definition for “friendly adult.”

HB0279 Higher Education for Incarcerated Youth

This bill directs the establishment of the Dixie State University Higher Education for Incarcerated Youth Program, which provides certain higher education opportunities to students in certain custody.

SB0050 Juvenile Offender Penalty Amendments

This bill addresses penalties imposed on an individual for certain sexual offenses committed as a juvenile. Notably, the bill says if an individual is sentenced in district court for certain sexual offenses committed while a juvenile, the individual is not required to register on the Sex and Kidnap Offender Registry.

HB0260 Criminal Justice Modifications

This bill amends many things, including provisions related to sentencing, probation, parole, and court-ordered restitution, fines, fees, and other costs. See the state’s website for the full details.

Miscellaneous Bills

HB0095 Prison Rape Elimination Act Compliance

This bill complies with national standards made under the federal Prison Rape Elimination Act of 2003 by mandating the implementation of policies and data collection relating to the sexual assault of inmates. This bill requires the creation of policies to prevent, detect, and respond to inmate sexual assault.

SB0126 Sentencing Commission Requirements

This bill provides requirements for the Utah Sentencing Commission regarding the collateral consequences for a conviction or an adjudication of an offense. This bill: • defines terms; • requires the Utah Sentencing Commission to identify any provision of state law that imposes a collateral consequence for a conviction or an adjudication of an offense; • requires the Utah Sentencing Commission to prepare and update a guide with collateral consequences that are identified by the Utah Sentencing Commission; • requires the guide to contain specific statements regarding the guide's application; and • provides a reporting requirement for the Utah Sentencing Commission regarding the guide.

If you have questions about any of the specific changes to Utah law and how they might affect your case or the case of a loved one, our expert legal team is ready to help you.

Contact us at (801) 532-5297 for a free consultation.

Defend your case with the best criminal defense attorneys in Utah

Get a confidential case evaluation

Our office will contact you as soon as possible to arrange for you to discuss the facts of your case with an experienced criminal defense attorney in Salt Lake City, Utah.​ The use of this form for communication with our personnel does not establish an attorney-client relationship.