SALT LAKE CITY — The Senate criminal justice committee approved enhancing penalties for prostitution-related crimes as well as clarifying the definition of prostitution in a hearing Tuesday.
Senate Bill 230 would 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.
The committee unanimously voted to recommend the bill to the full Senate.
Bill sponsor Sen. Todd Weiler, R-Woods Cross, said its language adds protection to undercover officers who face difficult situations while conducting prostitution stings.
"Some of the women involved in this trade ... are savvy enough ... to force an undercover (officer) to actually touch them, because that's where the line is currently drawn," he said.
The measure adds language saying that prostitution occurs when a person "offers, or agrees to engage" in sexual activity with another person in exchange for payment. Under the current law, only "engaging" in such activity is listed as an act of prostitution.