Highlighted by a change in the law that criminalizes spousal rape, the Utah Legislature passed a wide variety of laws that do everything from enhance victims' rights to make cruelty to animals a Class C misdemeanor offense.

Paul Boyden, executive director of the Statewide Association of Prosecutors, said victims' rights was a common theme of the 1991 Legislature - something he says is part of a national trend."People are paying more attention to victims' rights, and when new issues present themselves, it's more likely now someone will sponsor legislation that will do something about it," Boyden said.

One of the approved bills will enable crime victims to find out when the defendant who committed a crime against them is released from prison.

But Boyden said one of the most significant pieces of legislation was a bill sponsored by Rep. Nancy Lyon, R-Bountiful, which made spousal rape illegal. Utah was one of only four states where spousal rape was not covered by the criminal code.

"As far as the turning point in criminal law, the benchmark of change is our societal attitudes. Obviously spousal rape is most important," Boyden said.

Perhaps the most important legislation involving the judiciary was a bill that made sweeping organizational changes in Utah courts. The bill, sponsored by Rep. John Valentine, R-Orem, was the product of a two-year task force and six months of interim study.

Under the bill, the district and circuit courts will be merged and judges will be assigned to courts as needed. The bill will empower the justice courts to handle traffic infractions, Class B misdemeanors and other minor infractions.

Another change within the law will to allow district court judges to either record court procedure on videotape or employ court reporters.