Abuse is a serious crime in Utah. There are many ways that abuse can happen, but the two main abuse laws in Utah are child abuse and domestic abuse. Both forms of abuse are very serious and have significant criminal penalties attached.
Domestic abuse and child abuse are both criminalized in Utah, but there are defenses you can raise in order to combat these allegations. Generally, these defenses revolve around using force in self-defense or justifying physical action as permitted by statute.
If you need help with abuse-related legal matters, call Rice, Murtha & Psoras’s Utah criminal defense lawyers at 758-2287 to get a free case review.
Domestic Abuse in Utah
One of the first things that likely pops into peoples’ minds when the term “abuse” is used in a criminal context is domestic abuse or domestic violence. Utah defines “domestic violence” under Utah Code § 76-36-1(4). Domestic violence/abuse in Utah is not a specific crime, but it entails the commission of other crimes in a domestic context. Assault, aggravated assault, and other crimes can be considered domestic violence if one spouse, dating partner, co-parent, or other co-habitant does it to another. A co-habitant is any individual who lives with another person.
Domestic Abuse Defenses in Utah
It is important to fight against domestic abuse/violence charges because there are often serious life consequences attached to a conviction. There are many ways that you can defend against a domestic abuse or violence charge in Utah. Our Utah abuse defense lawyers have examined some of the options that can work for defendants and have discussed them in detail below.
In order for a domestic violence charge to stick in Utah, the people involved need to be cohabitants. Generally, a cohabitant refers to an individual who you live with. However, Utah’s definition of a cohabitant is broader. Under Utah Code § 78B-7-102, a cohabitant can also be someone with whom a spouse has children or a sexual relationship, even if they do not live together.
If you are not a “cohabitant” with the victim under Utah law, you cannot be charged with domestic abuse.
Another way to defend against a domestic abuse claim is to challenge the legality of evidence the prosecution is expecting to use in the case.
Police officers usually require a warrant to seize evidence from someone’s home, so if they took something to use as evidence without one, we can file a motion to suppress to try and make sure that such evidence cannot be used in court because it was illegally obtained.
Additionally, police officers are required to read you your Miranda rights during any custodial interrogation. These rights include the right to remain silent and the right to have a lawyer present. If the police coerced you to say something while in custody without Mirandizing you, our Utah abuse defense lawyers can work to file a motion to have whatever you said in that instance struck from the record.
Child Abuse in Utah
Another form of abuse that is criminalized by statute in Utah is child abuse. Under Utah Code § 76-5-109, someone commits child abuse when they inflict physical injury on a child or let someone else injured a child when under their care or supervision. For example, it would be child abuse to physically beat your child as punishment. Additionally, it would also be child abuse to allow your spouse, partner, or another person you live with beath your child.
Defenses Against Child Abuse in Utah
There are several defenses you can raise against an allegation of child abuse in Utah, all detailed in the child abuse statute. We’ll go through each defense in turn and how it may be able to help your case if it applies.
There are a number of circumstances in which the use of “reasonable force” on a child is not considered child abuse. Chief among them is the discipline of a child by a parent through what is considered reasonable force or discipline.
What could be considered “reasonable” force or discipline is not laid out in the statute. Therefore, our lawyers will have to convince the court of what is a reasonable level of discipline. For example, most parents would not consider corporal punishment a reasonable use of force in the current day and age, but the revoking of privileges like television or internet access would be considered reasonable discipline under most circumstances.
Self-Defense or Defense of Others
You are allowed to use reasonable force on a child when it is for your own protection or in the defense of others. This is consistent with other self-defense principles for other crimes. That being said, what constitutes a “reasonable” force to defend against a child can vary wildly. A child under the law is anyone under the age of 18, so it is very likely that children of different ages will require different levels of force to be considered reasonable. It would not be reasonable to use the same force to defend against a five-year-old as defending against a 6’5” 200 pound 16-year-old.
Removal of a Weapon
It is also acceptable to use reasonable force to remove a weapon from a child, particularly for reason of self-defense. It is possible that force may be considered reasonable even if the child is not actively trying to hurt anyone. For example, if a young child is waving around a loaded rifle that they found unsecured, it may be reasonable to use some level of force to wrest the weapon from the child.
Talk With Our Utah Abuse Defense Lawyers Today
Overson Law has Utah abuse defense lawyers ready to go over your case when you call us at (801) 758-2287.