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Davis Journal

Road rage, Child custody bills move through legislature

Feb 22, 2024 11:21AM ● By Becky Ginos
 Rep. Paul Cutler, R-Centerville is sponsoring two bills addressing safety issues. Photo by Roger V. Tuttle

Rep. Paul Cutler, R-Centerville is sponsoring two bills addressing safety issues. Photo by Roger V. Tuttle

UTAH STATE CAPITOL—There are two bills before the legislature addressing safety issues, HB272 Child Custody Proceedings Amendments and HB30 Road Rage Amendments. Rep. Paul Cutler, R-Centerville is the sponsor for both bills and believes something needs to be done to protect children and drivers on the road. 

“I worked with the Domestic Violence Coalition on a bill last year,” said Cutler. “Some ladies approached me with horrific experiences in the family court system. I listened to their stories and was anxious to get involved in raising the bar in family law.”

SB272 is named Om’s law after Om Moses Gandhi, a 16-year-old boy in Utah who was killed by his father on Mother’s Day weekend in 2023 during court-ordered, unsupervised parent time, said Cutler. This was despite his mother’s warnings for 14 years to the courts about his father’s threats, domestic violence and drug and alcohol addictions. 

Leah Moses, Om’s mother, shared her story in the House Judiciary Committee recently in support of the bill.

“While we've highlighted the tragic story of Om Moses Gandhi. There are literally 1,000s of other children who are impacted by family violence in our state,” said Cutler on the House floor last Friday. “In fact, in the last year where we have good statistics, 8,765 cases were reported, which puts Utah significantly above the national average.”

Courts, unfortunately, have been used as a weapon, he said. “Children have been leveraged and manipulated by parents on both sides. These changes that we'll talk about today will make it more difficult for some attorneys and some parents to accomplish their objectives. There must be safeguards in place to protect children no matter what goes on between parents.”

HB272 requires:

• Child safety first – elevate child safety as the first priority of custody and parenting. Courts must first consider all safety risks, including evidence of domestic violence, in determining children’s best interest.

• Expert testimony – limit expert testimony in family court to qualified and credentialed professions.

• Safe therapy – implement guidance and limits on family court use of reunification treatments. Any court-ordered reunification treatments must demonstrate proof of safety, effectiveness and therapeutic value.

• Child abuse training – increase training for family court personnel.

“The fundamental purpose of the government is to keep us safe,” said Cutler. “There are places where it is appropriate for the government to be involved. I encourage people to get involved.”

Cutler is also running HB30 Road Rage Amendments in an effort to keep Utah families safe on the road. 

“There’s been a spike in aggressive driving,” said Cutler. “Prosecutors in Davis County came to me. These drivers are getting off with a slap on the wrist. They’re not facing significant penalties.”

It’s not just reckless drivers in a hurry who are not paying attention, he said. “It’s different when they try to run a car off the road.”

The Department of Public Safety (DPS) has gotten a lot of complaints, said Cutler. “Calls into the 30 state dispatch centers have jumped almost 50 percent from 565 calls in 2020 to 747 calls in 2023. The bill calls for improved data collection to see if it’s getting worse or if we’re just imagining it but there has been a significant increase in fatalities since 2020 and it’s stayed high.”

What does HB30 do? 

• Defines road rage and improves data collection.

• Increases penalties and fines for the most serious road rage criminal behavior – creates a criminal enhancement for road rage offenses, defines mandatory minimum fines for serious road rage events, allows the Driver License Division to revoke a driver license for an individual convicted of two or more road rage offenses in one year and includes motor vehicle in the aggravated assault statute.

• Funds road rage education campaign – DPS has launched a Road Rage Awareness Campaign to help people think through what they will do before it happens to them.

“People are dying,” Cutler said. “Loved ones are being taken away. We need the tools to curb this.”

Both HB272 and HB30 were being considered in the Senate as of press time.