How Does Utah Law Define Consent in Sexual Assault Cases?

Over the past 10-15 years, society has become more aware of sexual assault and the damage it can cause. Offices are offering sexual assault prevention training, and colleges across the country have made education about what constitutes consent part of their orientation curriculum for new students. The law, too, has changed to better define what constitutes sexual assault and what consent looks like.

In Utah, consent is not defined, but statutes outline many acts that denote a lack of consent. It can be said that Utah uses a “no means no” system rather than “yes means yes” for consent. Accordingly, understanding consent in Utah involves understanding what acts can denote a lack of consent.

To have our team of Park City sex crimes defense lawyers look at your case, call Overson Law at (801) 758-2287.

Defining Consent in Utah

Consent is explained under Utah Code § 76-5-406(2). Utah law does not so much give a definition for consent as explain a large number of courses of action that denote a lack of consent. Our Provo sex crime defense attorneys will walk you through this statute so that you have an understanding of how consent is treated under Utah law.

Lack of Consent Through Words

Utah Code § 76-5-406(2)(a) makes it so that a person can display a lack of consent through words or conduct. Essentially, if someone says “no” to a sexual invitation, they are not consenting. Actions can also display a lack of consent, such as pushing someone away or avoiding being in close proximity to someone making sexual advances.

Physical Force

Per Utah Code § 76-5-406(2)(b), removes consent when the perpetrator physically overpowers the victim to do a sexual act. So, if someone pins down a victim and has sexual intercourse with them, that victim cannot consent.

Surprise and Deception

Nonconsensual sexual acts can also happen if the perpetrator carries out those acts through surprise or deception under Utah Code § 76-5-406(2)(c). For example, suppose someone is going on a blind date after matching on a dating app. The perpetrator shows up to the date, pretending to be someone they are not. The two people then have sex, with the victim thinking that the perpetrator is someone they are not. The perpetrator could be accused of a sex crime because they used deception to rob the victim of their opportunity to consent.


Threatening a victim in order to obtain sexual gratification does not constitute consent under Utah Code § 76-5-406(2)(d). It does not matter if the threats are imminent or in the future, and it also does not matter if the threats are for physical harm or something else. So, a perpetrator could threaten to stab the victim if they do not have intercourse or threaten to get them fired from their job, and the result, criminally speaking, would be similar.

People Who Cannot Consent in Utah

In many circumstances, consent is given by adults who are free to do so. However, there are certain kinds of individuals who are not able to consent under the law, so it does not matter how verbal or intuited alleged consent was given – you can still be charged with a sex crime if you carry out sexual acts with any of these groups of people.


Minors cannot consent to sexual acts. Utah Code § 76-5-406(2)(i) makes it legally impossible for anyone under the age of 14 to consent to sexual acts. § (k) of the same statute makes it impossible for someone more than three years older than a victim between the ages of 14 and 17 to obtain consent. Finally, parents and guardians cannot obtain consent from their biological or adoptive children if the children are under the age of 18 per § (j) of the same act.

Unconscious People

Unconscious people cannot give consent per Utah Code § 76-5-406(2)(e). Consent requires individuals to know what is going on, so someone being unconscious precludes that.

People with Certain Mental Conditions

Under Utah Code § 76-5-406(f), you cannot get consent from someone who, because of a mental condition, cannot understand the consequences of a sex act or potentially resist it.

Sexual Assault in Utah

Many sex crimes in Utah that involve a lack of consent fall under the umbrella term “sexual assault.” Sexual assault can be defined as unwanted sexual touching or other sexual acts. There is no generic crime of “Sexual assault” in Utah. However, the two main crimes that would fall under the general term of “sexual assault:” Sexual battery and aggravated sexual assault.

Sexual Battery

Utah criminalized sexual battery under Utah Code § 76-9-201. The crime consists of touching another person’s buttocks, anus, breasts, genitals, or other sexually charged areas without their consent. There is no distinction between whether this nonconsensual touching is direct or through clothing, so “heavy petting” can still get you charged with sexual battery. If such conduct meets the threshold for a more severe crime, like rape, it is no longer sexual battery because it is rape – the more serious crime. Lack of consent is a core element of the crime of sexual battery.

Aggravated Sexual Assault

The crime of aggravated sexual assault can be found in Utah Code § 76-5-405. Aggravated sexual assault occurs when someone threatens a victim of rape or forcible sodomy while using a dangerous weapon or uses the same to force the victim to perform those acts. Again, a lack of consent is required for aggravated sexual assault, as all of the associated crimes require a lack of consent.

Talk with Our Utah Sex Crimes Defense Lawyers Today

If you have concerns you would like to discuss, get a free, confidential case review from Overson Law’s Ogden, UT sex crimes defense lawyers by calling (801) 758-2287.