SALT LAKE CITY — A crafty bank heist or a daring escape from police might make for great television, but one Utah legislator wants to make sure no convicted criminal gets a profit from selling their story.
While Utah currently bans people convicted of murder, rape or other serious crimes from making money off their notoriety, Rep. Curt Webb, R-Logan, wants to extend the restrictions to criminals of all types.
Hypothetically, that could include people busted for even minor misdemeanors if their fame is based on that crime. Additionally, any profit made off so-called "victimless" crimes would be taken and deposited into a state fund for victims.
Webb said it's unlikely that people charged with a misdemeanor would ever be pursued under the law because their crimes wouldn't make them famous.
"This would be self-policing, because the crime has to be notorious for people to pay money to read about it," Webb said.
Some lawmakers say they're concerned the law would impact people who change their lives after being convicted, but and later write inspirational books about their reformation. Webb acknowledges that possibility, but says he's unwilling to offer that as an exemption because it could be exploited by even the worst criminals.
Among those concerned about the broadness of the proposal is Rep. Kay McIff, R-Richfield, a former judge. But McIff said he trusts prosecutors wouldn't abuse the law.
"I assume its application won't go too far," McIff said. "I don't think somebody would push for it if somebody writes about a minor crime. It would only apply to a case that was a celebrated crime."
The Utah law has been on the books for decades, and most other states have similar laws. Webb said it has never actually been used in the state.
New York was the first state to pass the law in 1977 because of fears that David Berkowitz, known as the "Son of Sam" killer, would make money by telling his story.
Following New York's lead, 42 states have passed similar laws, according to the National Center for Victims of Crime. About half of those states don't limit the types of crimes to which the law applies.
House Bill 52, which Webb is sponsoring, could be brought for a House vote early next week.