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SALT LAKE CITY — A bill that expands definitions of who can seek a protective order in the face of sexual violence is moving forward through the Utah Senate.
The Senate Judiciary, Law Enforcement and Criminal Justice Committee on Wednesday unanimously approved HB100, which would allow victims of sexual violence to apply for a protective order.
Before the bill passed through the House, sponsor Rep. Lowry Snow, R-Santa Clara, amended the bill over three committee hearings in the House in mid-February in an effort to make it fair to all involved.
"I think we’ve done a little better job at balancing and protecting those interests on both sides," Snow said.
According to Snow, the bill would give victims of sexual violence from co-workers or neighbors or at educational, church or party settings an additional option to feel safe.
HB100 allows a victim to seek protection without waiting for a prosecutor or law enforcement to act, according to Snow. In addition, the current version of the bill would only allow a firearm to be taken from the subject of the order after a hearing is held.
Stewart Ralphs, of the Legal Aid Society of Salt Lake, spoke in support of the bill.
"Sometimes a victim may not want to prosecute, they just don’t want to have contact from this person. They should have that choice," Ralphs said.
Ralphs explained a protective order would be less onerous for a respondent than criminal charges because it would not go on their criminal record.
Senate Minority Whip Luz Escamilla, D-Salt Lake City, said this works toward closing a gap in the system to protect survivors and victims.
"This is happening all the time, and I believe right now there’s no way you can get help unless you hire an attorney and you have all the means and resources. This is really a victim-friendly approach," Escamilla said.
The bill will now go to the Senate floor for consideration.
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