King’s bill would clarify what acts are sexual crimes

State Rep. Steve King

Making masturbating in public a misdemeanor rather than a petty offense won’t cost the state more money, a legislative researcher told lawmakers.

As a result, Rep. Steve King’s measure designed to clarify when masturbation is a sexual crime won a crucial vote Friday.

The Grand Junction Republican said he introduced House Bill 1334 because of confusion in the law.

Currently, masturbating in public is considered a public-indecency crime, while some lesser, nonsexual acts that involve exposure of the genitals are considered more serious crimes and leave convicted offenders spending the rest of their lives on the state’s sexual-offender registry.

King’s bill would move public masturbating to the state’s public-exposure laws, provided that act was done with an intent to sexually arouse oneself or someone else.

Conversely, the bill would move nonsexual exposure of the genitals, such as streaking or urinating in public, to the less serious indecency statutes, making them a petty offense punishable by a mere fine.

“These are important changes to our laws that will serve to focus law enforcement resources and crack down on people who commit true sex crimes,” King said.

“Leaving people on the sex-offender list who did not commit a true sex crime wastes the time of law enforcement and diverts attention away from dangerous criminals.”

Legislative fiscal analyst Sara McPhee told lawmakers that because district attorneys already are charging people who expose their genitals in public for the purpose of arousal with misdemeanors rather than the less severe petty offense, it won’t cost the state any more money to prosecute cases.

As a result, the House Appropriations Committee approved the bill on a 10-1 vote and sent it to the full House for more debate.

Because of the state’s financial woes, bills that include even the smallest amount of money have been scaled back or killed.

“In a tough economic year like this, earning the approval of the Appropriations Committee can mean life or death for a piece of legislation,” King said.


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