A house bill that proposes to eliminate the statute of limitations in prosecuting violent sex crimes passed a Senate committee Wednesday, but with reservations.

HB13 proposes to do away with the statute of limitations on any first-degree felony sex offense, allowing prosecutors to file criminal charges on a case at any time. Currently, the law requires that charges be filed within eight years of the commission of the crime and within four years of the crime being reported to law enforcement.

The bill's sponsor, Rep. Carl Wimmer, R-Herriman, told members of the Senate Judiciary, Law Enforcement and Criminal Justice Standing Committee that the bill was necessary to bring sexual offenders to justice, even years after they committed a crime.

Wimmer said the bill still makes it clear that prosecutors still have to pull together enough evidence to prove the crime before a jury. He also pointed out that many surrounding state do not have any statutory limitations on first-degree felonies.

Some lawmakers expressed concern that some victims of a sex crime could use the change to blackmail perpetrators.

Sen. Lyle Hillyard, R-Logan, said he knew of a case where a 14-year-old girl was inappropriately touched by a man. She used that information to blackmail money out of the man well into her 30s before ultimately reporting the abuse to police. The man, Hillyard said, was then convicted and sent to prison.

Committee chairman, Sen. Greg Bell, R-Fruit Heights, said unlike murder, where you have irrefutable evidence that someone was killed, a sex crime pits the victim's word against the suspect's with often little evidence of a crime. Bell also said once someone is charged with a sex crime, news of the charge often ruins their lives.

The bill now moves to the Senate floor for debate. Wimmer had introduced the bill last year but the bill did not pass before the session concluded.

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