UTAH LEGISLATIVE SESSION: 2014

UTAH LEGISLATIVE SESSION 2014Well, another legislative session is in the books. I think most of us who are directly involved in the annual legislative process breathe a sigh of relief when it concludes.

 

This year , the Utah Chief of Police Association worked closely with the other Utah law enforcement agencies, the Attorney General’s office and the Utah Prosecutors

to represent what we collectively thought best for those of us who have to carry out the results of new legislation.

Park City’s Chief Wade Carpenter, the Association’s President, worked tirelessly on legislative issues, as did many of our chiefs, and Dave Spatafore. The list of those who made a significant difference includes more chiefs than in the past, representatives of the Utah Sheriffs Association, the Utah Prosecutors, Utah Department of Public Safety, the Atttorney General’s Office, Corrections, UPOA, and the Department of Wildlife Resources. All deserve credit.

Special recognition goes to the LELC chair, Chief Ken Wallentine. As always, he did a great job in guiding the discussions and keeping all informed of the issues.

The Law Enforcement Legislative Committee (LELC) considered 49 House and Senate bills. Some were supported, others were opposed, and a “no position” was taken on a few.

For a complete list of bills the LELC discussed, go ULELC. ORG and click on position statements.

A few of the bills that rise to the top of mutual interests include:

HB 20 — Recently, the Utah Supreme Court held that an officer could be personally liable for injuries sustained by a suspect operating a motor vehicle who is f leeing or evading arrest. Although the Court didn’t seem too happy with that conclusion, it pointed out that current law needed to be addressed. Since a pursuing officer often is not in control of what a f leeing suspect will do, this ruling has been a concern to all of us. Representative Brad Dee sponsored this bill which provides that the operator of a clearly marked authorized emergency vehicle owes no duty of care to a person who is: a suspect in the commission of a crime who is evading, f leeing, or otherwise attempting to elude the operator of said authorized emergency vehicle.

Of course, there are exceptions to this provision that account for a driver’s involuntary participation, or if the operator of the emergency vehicle had intent to cause harm to the f leeing suspect in an act that was unrelated to the legitimate object of the arrest.

As always, good judgment, safety, and agency policy is critical to the decision to engage in a vehicle pursuit.

HB70 — Forcible Entry Amendments. This bill modifies the Utah Code of Criminal Procedure regarding forcible entry by law enforcement officers when making an arrest or conducting a search. Some of the provisions are procedures already followed. However, current law requires reason or reasonable grounds to believe certain conditions exist. This bill changes those terms to probable cause, which infers a higher standard. Additionally, an officer may use only that force which is reasonable and necessary to effectuate forcible entry. It still allows entry without notice, but only if there is reason to believe the notice will endanger the life or safety of the officer or another person; or, if there is probable cause to believe evidence may be easily or quickly secreted or destroyed; or if a magistrate, upon probable cause based on proof provided under oath, has directed that the officer need not give notice of authority or purpose before entering the premises.

The bill also requires an officer to take reasonable precautions in executing any search warrant to minimize the risks of unnecessarily confrontational or invasive methods which may result in harm to any person.

To avoid searching the wrong premises, the officer shall verify the premises being searched are consistent with a particularized description in the search warrant, including such factors as type of structure, color, address, orientation of the property in relation to nearby structures as is reasonably necessary.

HB128S01 — This bill requires a search warrant before requesting disclosure of the location of an electronic device. Addresses the use of global positioning service or similar service.

HB155 — Representative Brad Dee sponsored this bill addressing 911 communications. This bill has many provisions and is a lengthy one to get through. Essentially, it amends duties and definitions of the Utah Communication Authority (UCA) to include administering the program for the computer aided dispatch system and coordination with the Utah 911 Committee. It amends the membership of the UCA governing board; amends the membership and duties of the Utah 911 committee; creates the Radio Network Division in the UCA ; creates the Office of Statewide Interoperability Coordinator; provides some funding for agencies wishing to move to a uniform platform.

Representative Dee has stated his interest in this area is to provide a means whereby all emergency agencies can readily communicate with one another in a more efficient and effective way than present systems allow.

Law enforcement agencies in some of the rural areas consistently express concern about the implications of this significant change. Representative Dee has indicated he is willing to work with all agencies. The decisions and actions of the revised UCA governing board will have a substantial impact on how this eventually works out.

HB157 — Representative Seelig sponsored this bill and worked closely with the Utah Chiefs of Police Association representative to get language we could support. The bill includes specific rights of a victim of a sexual assault and certain conditions regarding DNA collection, storage and entry into the Utah Combined DNA Index System. It requires that a law enforcement agency that chooses not to analyze DNA where the identity of the perpetrator is in doubt shall inform the victim of that decision; also requires a law enforcement agency to provide written notification to a victim ( or victim’s designee) 60 days before destroying or disposing of evidence from an unsolved sexual assault case.

HB257 — Clearly delineates the definition of “position of special trust” in conjunction with the crime of Aggravated Sexual Abuse of a Child. Aggravated Sexual Abuse of a Child (under the age of 14 years) is a first degree felony.

HB268 — This is a bill “priority opposed” by all the agencies represented on the LELC. It exempts archery equipment, including crossbows, from weapons prohibited from a restricted person, as long as the equipment is for the purpose of lawful hunting and lawful target shooting. The court or the Board of Pardons and Parole may still prohibit this possession, custody or control as a condition of pre-trial release or parole.

HB27 — Disorderly Conduct. This bill addresses the carrying of a firearm as it relates to a charge of disorderly conduct. The act of carrying a holstered or encased firearm, whether visible or concealed, without additional behavior or circumstances that would cause a reasonable person to believe the firearm is carried or possessed with criminal intent, does not constitute disorderly conduct. We are not aware of any arrests in the past few years for one simply openly carrying a firearm. Yet, this statute makes it clear that such action is not a matter of disorderly conduct.

LEGISLATIVE SESSION — continued from page 71 The bill also includes that it does not limit or prohibit a law enforcement officer from approaching or engaging any person in a voluntary conversation.

HB295 — Excludes certain weapon related requirements for a person performing an official duty; exempts a nonresident traveling in or through the state from weapon provisions so long as the weapon is unloaded and securely encased.

SB167 — This is the “Government Use of Unmanned Aerial Vehicles Act”, aka Drones. The issue of drones being used for law enforcement purposes is a national discussion. There is an apparent concern that Big Brother is watching all of us; thus, the discussion and subsequent legislation. A law enforcement agency may not obtain, receive, or use data acquired through an unmanned aerial vehicle unless there is a search warrant (or judicially recognized exception to warrant requirements); or a nongovernment actor discloses information under certain restrictions pertaining to the commission of a crime, or the good faith belief that there is an imminent emergency involving danger of death or serious bodily injury.

There are reporting requirements which annually shall be made public on the website of the agency using such aerial vehicles.

SB185 — Law Enforcement Transparency. This bill was, in its original draft, a great concern to law enforcement. There seems to be a perception of some legislators that law enforcement needs closer scrutiny in carrying out searches, entries, and/or serving warrants.

After numerous meetings of several chiefs of police with Senator Henderson, the language was amended which made it a bit more workable. Regardless of how it came out, the requirements of the bill will create more paperwork for all agencies. In its first draft, the language included not only search warrants but arrest warrants. We successfully argued that we serve, or act upon, many more arrest warrants than search warrants.

To report on each arrest warrant would take substantial time that most agencies do not have. The language was eventually changed to reporting the number of arrest warrants served that require a forced entry and were not served in conjunction with a search warrant that resulted in a reportable incident. This provision will limit some of the required paperwork.

This bill defines “Reportable incidents” as the deployment of a “tactical group” or law enforcement officers who serve a search warrant after using forcible entry. On or after January 1, 2015, every Utah law enforcement agency shall annually on or before April 30 report to the Commission of Criminal and Juvenile Justice … whether any reportable incidents occurred for the previous calendar year, and if so—the responses to numerous questions. The requirements of this bill apply to all agencies, including multi-jurisdictional teams. Annually, the Commission on Criminal and Juvenile Justice shall summarize the data received from all law enforcement agencies pertaining to this bill and submit them to the Attorney

General, the speaker of the House of Representatives, for referral to any House standing or interim committees with oversight of law enforcement and criminal justice; and, the president of the Senate, for referral to any Senate standing or interim committees with similar oversight; and to each law enforcement agency; and, the report shall be published on the Utah Open Government website. If an agency fails to comply with the reporting requirements, the Commission shall contact the agency and request compliance. After 30 days of noncompliance, the Commission shall report the matter to the Attorney General, the Speaker of the House and the President of the Senate.

SB253 — Even though Utah has had a law prohibiting “texting” while operating a motor vehicle, enforcement has been difficult. We have heard from various jurisdictions that when an accident occurs, or when a driver is observed apparently texting, the response has been, “I wasn’t texting, I was dialing a number on my phone.” Until now, that has not been prohibited. SB253 addresses this. While it is still lawful to use a handheld wireless communication device while operating a motor vehicle for voice communication and other situations already covered in the law, this bill prohibits dialing a phone number. This prohibition is added to other actions such as writing, sending, reading text messages, instant messages, electronic mail, internet activity, recording or viewing video and entering data into a handheld device. If drivers observe this restriction on communication while operating a motor vehicle, maybe we will all be a little safer.

Well, this is just a sample of the many bills considered during the 2014 legislative session. Now, we need to be alert and see what issues emerge, or return next session. In the meantime, it is critical that law enforcement agencies and associations work closely with their legislators to establish trust and open dialog. Generally, it is too late to bring about any change if we wait for the annual session to begin. Working with the legislature is a 12 month process. Best Wishes to all—and be safe!