SALT LAKE CITY, Utah (ABC4 News) – A United States Marshal for the District of Utah says if people saw the child pornography images investigators viewed on a daily basis, stopping it would be one of Utah’s top priorities.
“I think if the public had the unfortunate ability to view these images and to see what they are for what they are, and to be displayed — and you certainly don’t want that to happen — but once you see it and once you know what it is, you’ll become incredulous and it will become a priority to stop this. But you don’t want that victim in that picture to be seen ever again,” explained Matthew Harris.
According to le.utah.gov, child pornography is currently a second-degree felony in Utah. Convictions are punishable by up to 15 years in prison and/or a fine of up to $10,000, and offenders must register as sex offenders for life.
“There’s always the option to go federal or state,” explained Harris. “Generally you get more bang for your buck on the federal charges. People convicted of child pornography on the federal side do prison time. On the state side, it does vary.”
“The penalties for these crimes need to be severe. The way you cut off the demand is to ensure that these people are prosecuted to the full extent of the law, and that they’re monitored and they continue to be monitored and that they register as they’re supposed to,” Harris said.
Two bills dealing with child pornography have been introduced this legislative session.
Paul Ray (D- Clearfield) is sponsoring HB 141 Aggravated Sexual Exploitation of a Minor.
If Ray’s bill is passed, it will increase penalties for offenders under certain circumstances and make child pornography a first-degree felony.
James Dunnigan (R-Taylorsville) is sponsoring HB 298 Offender Registry Amendments.
If Dunnigan’s bill is passed, it will modify provisions for offenders and allow offenders to petition removal from the sex offender registry, and change their name if certain requirements are met.
Harris cannot comment on state law but believes people are becoming numb to child pornography issues.
“When people realize that sometimes it’s the man next door, or the person in the community, or the person they know, or their relative, that’s when they finally realize what an epidemic this is,” Harris said.