Utah House Committee Passes Online Dating Safety Bill

A bill proposed in the Utah House of Representatives aims to make criminal records more widely available to users of dating apps to help reduce rates of sexual and domestic violence. (Hannah Miner)

The Utah House Judiciary Committee passed a bill that would allow people to search the legal records of people they meet online.

HB249 was adopted by the committee in a unanimous vote on February 9. Following its passage, the bill is now on its way to the legislative floor to receive a vote in the House. The bill was sponsored by Rep. Stephen Handy, R-Layton, after he listened to his constituents’ concerns about intimate partner domestic violence.

The proposed bill would allow Utahns easier access to Xchange, Utah’s public online court system. Currently, users of the site must pay a monthly fee to access the recordings online. If the bill is passed, Xchange will gain wider access and become more affordable.

Handy called domestic violence a “scourge” in her opening remarks before ceding time to Laura Wilson, a Layton resident and domestic violence survivor who attended the meeting to testify in favor of the bill. Wilson detailed her time dating someone she met on a dating site, which she considered “perfect.”

“At that time, I had no reason to suspect that he had a history of violence. Six months into the relationship things started to change, ”Wilson told the committee.

After suffering months of physical and emotional abuse, Wilson said her boyfriend at the time admitted he had a criminal record she was unaware of. Even after getting pregnant, Wilson said the abuse continued to escalate.

According to ABODO research, 91% of the nearly 5,000 college students surveyed Use some sort of dating app to find relationships online.

According to Julie Valentine, a BYU nursing professor and sexual assault expert, most dating apps filter little or no screening for people who have committed repeated violent offenses. She said the bill could have a profound impact on student safety on Utah campuses and make it easier to find an alien’s background.

There were concerns about how the bill might affect the ability of some people accused of crimes to live their lives more easily. Steven Burton, director of the Utah Association of Criminal Defense Lawyers, said people could have access to records in cases where someone might not be guilty and assume the worst.

The bill passed unanimously in committee, regardless of the concerns, in part because the information that would be available is in the public domain. The bill would only facilitate access to these documents.

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