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Legislature boosts penalties for prostitution-related crimes

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SALT LAKE CITY — The Utah Legislature approved a bill Tuesday to toughen penalties for prostitution-related crimes.

The House passed SB230 with a 71-1 vote, sending it to Gov. Gary Herbert's desk for his consideration.

The bill would give "teeth" to Utah's ability to prosecute prostitution, said House sponsor Rep. Mike Winder, R-West Valley City.

"We have a real problem," he said. "This is not a real victimless crime."

Winder said 75 percent of women who engage in prostitution work for a "pimp."

The bill would better equip law enforcement, he said, because it would expand the reasons why an individual could be found guilty of prostitution.

Under current law, a person can only be convicted if he or she engages in a sexual act for money. But SB230 would include if a person "offers or agrees" to engage in sexual activity for money.

"With the teeth, we can go after the pimps, the Johns and those involved in this," Winder said.

The bill would also change patronizing a prostitute from a class B misdemeanor to a class A misdemeanor, with a third conviction for that crime becoming a third-degree felony.

Aiding or facilitating an act of prostitution would also be enhanced to a class A misdemeanor, with all subsequent convictions becoming third-degree felonies.

— Katie McKellar

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