SB 20: Ending the Flood of Class B Misdemeanors
This bill passed the Senate and the House unanimously.
Over-criminalization is a plague that has spread across the country, including Utah. Thankfully, Senator Daniel Thatcher is responding with Senate Bill 20, which not only reduces many misdemeanors down to an infraction, but also addresses one of the chief causes of a bloated amount of misdemeanor offenses.
When a city passes a new ordinance defining something as illegal conduct, they often don’t specify the level of the offense. Instead it is automatically classified as a Class B misdemeanor. Senator Thatcher’s bill eliminates that issue by instead classifying these and future offenses as infractions. If a city wants to specify a stricter classification, they can do so, but they need to take the time to determine if that is appropriate and then actively do so, rather than have it be set by default.
SB 20 is part of a long term effort to reduce the amount of criminalized activities in code. In 2016, Senator Thatcher sponsored SB 187 which successfully reduced a number of Class C misdemeanors to infractions. Expect to see more decriminalization bills in the future.