Does Assault Require Mandatory Jail Time in Utah?

Salt Lake City criminal lawyer

An assault charge in Utah can range in severity from a misdemeanor to a felony depending on factors like how seriously the victim was injured, whether the defendant used a gun or other dangerous weapon, and whether the victim was pregnant at the time of the alleged attack. Salt Lake City criminal defense lawyer Darwin Overson explains sentencing for simple assault and aggravated assault in Utah, including whether there is mandatory jail or prison time for defendants who are convicted.

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Can You Go to Jail for an Assault Charge in Utah?

The short answer to this question is yes: jail time is a sentencing possibility for defendants who are convicted of aggravated or simple assault. In addition to jail or prison time, the judge may also impose other penalties, such as fines and probation, where the defendant has to obey certain rules and restrictions for a set period of time. The defendant may also be required to pay restitution, which is compensation for the victim’s injuries and losses.

Because of the harsh consequences an assault conviction can lead to – including a criminal record and increased difficulty getting a job – it is very important to be represented by an experienced Salt Lake City assault attorney who understands what sorts of defense strategies are most effective in cases involving violent crimes. Continue reading for an overview of Utah’s assault statutes, the difference between misdemeanor assault and felony assault charges, and an explanation of how much jail or prison time can be imposed by a judge.

Jail Time for Simple Assault in Utah

There are two broad types of assault charges in Utah: “simple” assault, which is a misdemeanor, and the more serious crime of “aggravated” assault, which is a felony. This section will focus on simple assault, so if you’re looking for an explanation of sentencing for aggravated assault, scroll down to the next section.

Simple assault is prosecuted under Utah Code § 76-5-102. This statute gives two definitions for simple assault:

  1. Injuring someone, or even creating a major risk of injury to someone, by using force or violence.
  2. Attempting to injure someone by acting with force or violence.

Merely “creat[ing] a substantial risk of bodily injury” can give rise to assault charges. However, it may be possible to beat the charges by showing that the defendant did not act unlawfully, acted in self-defense, acted in defense of their house or other property, or did not actually create a risk of injury.

In most cases, simple assault is a Class B misdemeanor. While there is no mandatory sentence for simple assault in Utah, the judge can still sentence the defendant to as much as six months in jail – not to mention up to $1,000 in fines. However, a skilled Utah criminal attorney may be able to persuade a sentencing judge that a lighter penalty for assault would be more appropriate, particularly in cases where it is the defendant’s first offense.

Though typically a Class B misdemeanor, there are also a few situations where simple assault is a Class A misdemeanor, which has a longer maximum sentence. (For context, any crime more serious than a Class A misdemeanor is a felony.) Simple assault is a Class A misdemeanor if:

  • The victim was pregnant when the alleged assault took place, and the defendant knew about it.
  • The victim’s injuries are considered “substantial.” A “substantial bodily injury” is worse than an unclassified injury (simply described as “bodily injury”), but not as severe as a “serious bodily injury,” which will result in aggravated assault charges.

Again, there is no mandatory sentence for assault under Utah Code § 76-5-102, even when charged as a Class A misdemeanor. However, the defendant can potentially be sentenced to a full year in jail. The defendant can also be ordered to pay as much as $2,500 in fines.

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Does Aggravated Assault Have a Mandatory Minimum Sentence?

Unlike simple assault, which is a misdemeanor, aggravated assault is always a felony. Not only are the punishments worse – so is the damage to the defendant’s reputation. While some employers may be willing to overlook misdemeanor offenses, having a violent felony attached to your name can pose serious problems when you’re trying to find a job or move upward in your career. State law also prohibits former felons from owning or buying guns under penalty of additional criminal charges.

There are several situations where simple assault turns into aggravated assault – for example, if the defendant uses a dangerous weapon (like a knife or firearm), or uses enough force that death or serious injury become “likely.” Depending on how badly the victim is hurt, aggravated assault is either a second degree felony or third degree felony.

The sentence for third degree felony aggravated assault ranges anywhere from no prison time at all (probation) to five years in prison, with a possible fine of $5,000. There is a minimum sentence of one year in prison for second degree felony aggravated assault, though the maximum sentence can be as long as 15 years. The defendant can also be ordered to pay fines as high as $10,000.

Salt Lake City Assault Attorney for Felony and Misdemeanor Charges

If you’d like more information about either of these offenses, we’d encourage you to take a look at our articles on simple assault charges and aggravated assault charges. More importantly, you should contact a Utah assault  attorney as soon as possible. It may be possible to have the case dismissed or obtain more lenient penalties, but the longer you wait to seek legal help from a defense attorney, the lower the odds of a favorable case outcome will be. If you or a family member was arrested for assault anywhere in Utah, contact the law offices of Overson Law right away at (801) 758-2287 for a free and confidential legal consultation.