Silas Walker, Deseret News
FILE - The Capitol in Salt Lake City is pictured on Friday, Jan. 25, 2019. Current law does not allow for people who encounter sexual violence outside current or former romantic relationships, such as from acquaintances, to apply for protective orders. A bill discussed by Utah lawmakers this week would give them the option.

SALT LAKE CITY — Current law allows for those currently or previously involved in romantic relationships to apply for protective orders, but it does not provide for people who encounter sexual violence from acquaintances or co-workers.

HB100, sponsored by Rep. Lowry Snow, R-Santa Clara, would provide a path for these victims to seek protection from the court through a protective order, instead of working with the criminal justice system. The bill will be heard in committee Friday.

"We should give the people of Utah access to the courts, and (they should) not have to rely on the government to go through sometimes a lengthy process of acquiring criminal charges," said Spencer Walsh, deputy county attorney in Cache County.

Walsh said investigations can often be lengthy and this law would allow victims of sexual violence to not rely on a prosecutor or a police officer.

Julie Valentine, a BYU nursing professor and certified sexual assault examiner, is completing a study with the Utah Bureau of Forensic Services using rape kits from sexual violence incidents in Utah. She said the bill would allow 64 percent of victims to petition for a protective order who would not currently have that option.

"Rape is a crime that takes away the victim's sense of control, and this would be a way to help empower victims to help them gain a sense of control in a very difficult situation," Valentine said.

Snow said this bill would include those who are in one-time situations, such as a dating event, and those victimized and involved in sex trafficking. He said this system doesn't require hiring an attorney, victims can get the forms from the court and fill them out themselves.

"It empowers a person and, we're probably talking most of the time about empowering women," Snow said.

The House Judiciary Standing Committee heard the bill Feb. 8 and determined it needed to be amended before it is moved forward. Some of the concerns dealt with the language regarding firearms, the trauma involved in needing to reapply after 180 days and protections for respondents falsely accused.

Tuesday, the committee considered a substitute bill reflecting those changes. Snow said in both committee meetings the issues raised should be addressed and asked for the committee to hold the bill to allow time to rework it.

Rep. Eric Hutchings, R-Kearns, said during the committee meeting he was going to support the bill, but he shared concerns about the legal issue the respondent would face.

"I think the committee just needs to understand, these are real … a protective order doesn't protect people as well as they think it does, and it hurts, or it creates a real, permanent legal issue, for an individual," Hutchings said.

Snow said the piece of paper does make a difference, particularly in the response from an officer when someone calls 911.

The committee will discuss e bill for the third time Friday. Snow said he thinks the changes he is making will be enough to move it forward.

Snow said the draft he is going to present will change the initial period to one year, with the option of a renewal for another year. It would change the date that the law would become effective to July 1. He also said he will probably take out a provision that would allow law enforcement to confiscate firearms.

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"I think I've addressed most of (the concerns), and I think generally that the committee is supportive, and I've got lots of support from law enforcement and from prosecutors," Snow said.

According to Snow, much of the language from the bill comes from existing protective order language, including the 2013 dating violence bill. He said he doesn't want this to be a discussion of Second Amendment rights.

"The broader issue is providing immediate protection for a victim through ex-parte proceeding and later through a full hearing proceeding," Snow said.