UTAH (ABC4) – Utah’s 2021 General Legislative Session is underway with many high focus bills on the table.
A bill getting attention this session is House Bill 21, Stalking Amendments, sponsored by Rep. Candice B. Pierucci (Republican – District 52)
According to the bill, modifications would be made to the elements for the offense of stalking. This bill would change the definition of “course of conduct” required for the offense of stalking.
The bill states “course of conduct” means two or more acts directed at or toward a specific person.
Rep. Pierucci tells ABC4: “Shortly after being appointed to the legislature, a constituent reached out who had a terrible experience. He and his girlfriend had broke up, and at the suggestion of his counselor, he sent a letter to his ex-girlfriend, later on, his ex-girlfriend who was a photographer, posted a photo of him and his family on Instagram, he commented on the post and asked her to remove the photo. Later, police showed up at his door and told him he was being arrested for stalking.”
Rep. Pierucci says police cited the letter he sent his ex-girlfriend and the Instagram post he commented on as two acts of stalking, which meets Utah’s current stalking code requirement.
“When asked about his case, the officer who arrested him cited ambiguity and vagueness in current state code as it relates to stalking,” Rep Pierucci shares.
Over the summer, Rep. Pierucci says she worked with the Commission on Criminal and Juvenile Justice in a workgroup that included representation from the defense, prosecutors, sentencing commission, courts, and victims’ advocates to work on a bill that is measured and improves, and clarifies Utah’s stalking code.
“We reviewed the laws of all fifty states to see if there were best practices of other states that could be incorporated in our state law to provide clarity. This bill has the support of the Criminal Code Evaluation Task Force and the Commission on Criminal and Juvenile Justice,” Rep Pierucci says.
As she has continued to meet with victims’ advocates and attorneys she says she feels “that increasing the number of acts for stalking from two to three is not wise, which is why I introduced the amendment to keep the number of acts at two. The bill was amended in committee and no longer increases the acts from two to three.”
The language that remains in the bill does not require that the offender have a continuity of purpose but that the acts evidence a continuity of purpose, Rep Pierucci says. “This gives victims, law enforcement, and prosecutors the power to proceed in these cases based on what the acts suggest, regardless of whether or not the defendant admits to having a singular purpose behind the multiple contacts.”
“Since introducing this bill I have heard from several individuals and attorneys who have shared stories similar to my constituents that support a change in current stalking code,” Rep Pierucci shares.
House Bill 21 passed out of the House committee and is waiting to be heard on the House floor.
See House Bill 21 below: