Is Domestic Violence a Crime in Utah?

Salt Lake City criminal lawyer

Assaulting a cohabitant, such as a spouse, dating partner, or someone else in your household, is clearly illegal. It is unquestionable that you can be charged with a crime if you are accused of doing this – and many of these charges can be difficult to fight. In cases of domestic violence, courts tend to favor the safety of victims over the rights of defendants. However, many people might be unclear on whether domestic violence or domestic assault is a separate crime by itself or whether these kinds of charges come under other assault and violent crime statutes. The Salt Lake City domestic violence lawyers at Overson Law explain how these crimes are charged and what potential penalties you could face for domestic violence in Utah. Call (801) 758-2287 and schedule a free legal consultation with an experienced Utah domestic violence defense attorney.

What is Domestic Violence in Utah?

Crimes that qualify as “domestic violence” offenses cover a broad range of violent and non-violent crimes. The definition even expands to include crimes involving threats of violence, which means that many stalking and harassment crimes could also qualify as domestic violence crimes in addition to clear-cut violent crimes like assault. Even crimes like witness tampering or disorderly conduct can qualify as domestic violence crimes under the definitions included in Utah Code § 77-36-1(4).

Moreover, crimes can qualify as domestic violence offenses even if they are not completed. This means that attempted crimes and conspiracy to commit a crime can also qualify as domestic violence crimes, even if the crime was not committed in full. However, there usually must be a step taken toward committing these crimes for attempt or conspiracy to be charged. Mere plans or talk about committing a crime against a cohabitant without any significant step taken toward carrying out the crime will not be enough to constitute an attempted crime.

Is Domestic Violence a Separate Crime Under Utah Law?

Utah has no crime called “domestic violence” or “domestic assault.” Instead, Utah uses the general criminal laws for assault and other violent crimes. However, the Utah Code of Criminal Procedure sets aside special rules under the Cohabitant Abuse Procedures Act to enhance the penalties for a domestic violence offense and give police and courts additional powers to punish these offenses. Essentially, domestic crimes are the same as any other crime, but they are committed in a domestic setting between cohabitants.

The Cohabitant Abuse Procedures Act provides a list of offenses that, when committed against a cohabitant, are considered domestic violence or abuse. While many of these offenses are violent in nature, such as aggravated assault, homicide, or sexual battery, many other offenses that fall under the umbrella of domestic violence are non-violent offenses. Crimes such as stalking, harassment, unlawful detention, or voyeurism are all considered offenses of domestic violence when committed against a cohabitant.

Section 77-36-1 and the following sections deal with how the government can treat crimes committed against other adults in the household. This means that a crime can be counted as a “domestic violence” crime if it is committed against any adult in the household, including the following:

  • Spouses
  • Romantic partners
  • The parent of your children
  • Someone pregnant with your child
  • A “parent, grandparent, sibling, or” other relative within certain degrees
  • An adult roommate

A crime is considered a domestic offense only if it is committed against another adult. However, this does not mean that children cannot be somehow involved in a domestic offense. Domestic crimes often occur between married or otherwise romantic partners. It is common that they have children together who live in the household with them. Children often bear witness to and are affected by domestic violence. Despite this, children do not count for domestic violence offenses – but crimes committed against children are often enhanced, or they could be considered child abuse. Children are not necessarily covered by domestic crimes laws, but other laws exist specifically to protect children.

How Are Domestic Violence Charges Different from Normal Criminal Charges in Utah?

Domestic violence cases are different from ordinary criminal cases because victims of domestic violence are often still in danger of being accosted by the defendant. Because the victim and the defendant are cohabitants – and oftentimes romantic partners – their entire lives are very closely intertwined. It is crucial that courts take certain steps and precautions to prevent defendants from causing any future harm to the victim. These precautions heavily favor the victim’s privacy and safety over the rights of the defendant. In the eyes of the government, if these precautions are not taken as soon as proceedings against the defendant begin, it might be too late for the victim.

It is difficult for a defendant facing domestic violence charges to make those charges go away. Charges will not be dismissed if you decide to divorce your spouse. Even if you are not married to the victim, your crimes are still considered to be domestic violence. On top of that, a plea deal to reduce the charges against you may be held in abeyance by the court. This means the court may require you to complete certain treatment programs or other conditions before approving your plea.

Additionally, the victim’s location will be kept secret from the defendant. The courts will often waive any requirement that the defendant be told where the victim is located. Even the defendant’s attorney may be forbidden from disclosing this information to their client.

Penalties for Domestic Violence Crimes in Utah

Because the specific crimes charged as domestic violence in Utah can vary widely, it is difficult to pin down the specific penalties for domestic violence. Domestic violence crimes may also carry additional or upgraded penalties depending on the circumstances of your case. This may include increased jail time, additional costs or fines, or mandatory treatment or counseling. You should speak with a lawyer to help determine the exact range of fines and jail time you might be looking at in your case, but most criminal charges fall under certain classifications of crime in Utah. These crime grades carry the ranges of penalties listed below:


  • First degree felonies carry up to $10,000 in fines and 5 years to life in prison.
  • Second degree felonies carry up to $10,000 in fines and 1-15 years in prison.
  • Third degree felonies carry up to $5,000 in fines and up to 5 years in prison.


  • Class A misdemeanors carry fines up to $2,500 and up to 364 days in jail.
  • Class B misdemeanors carry fines up to $1,000 and up to 6 months in jail.
  • Class C misdemeanors carry fines up to $750 in fines and up to 90 days in jail.

Some crimes may be graded as different levels of crime depending on the harm done. For instance, assault can be charged as simple assault or aggravated assault depending on the circumstances of the offense and the amount of harm caused to the victim. A few bumps and bruises might be simple assault, but serious wounds or the use of a dangerous weapon may lead to charges of aggravated assault instead. Other charges are set at a particular grade of crime.

A defendant who is found guilty of a crime involving domestic violence may be made to wear an electronic monitoring device, such as an ankle monitor, in order to track their location. The court may also require the defendant to pay costs associated with counseling and treatment for the victim and any affected children in addition to the cost of the defendant’s own court-ordered treatment or counseling. The defendant could also have to pay restitution to the victim.

Repeat offenses for domestic violence are usually increased by one grade, upgrading the offense to a more serious one. In addition to these increased penalties, domestic violence crimes may carry additional penalties and restraining orders or protective orders that might be construed as punishment.

Restraining Orders for Domestic Violence in Utah

If you are accused of committing a domestic violence crime in Utah, you may face a restraining order. Restraining orders and protective orders are often issued on an emergency basis to help alleged victims of domestic violence get clear of the danger. These orders can be issued to kick the accused out of their house, keep them from interacting with the victim, stop them from possessing a firearm, grant the victim child custody, and create other restrictions. These orders may be issued by the court during any proceeding in which the accused is present, meaning it could be issued any time you appear for a court hearing.

In most cases, you cannot fight a restraining order right away. Instead, these orders are issued “ex parte,” which means that they are issued at one party’s request. The order will remain in place on a temporary basis, usually around 10 days, until you get a chance to respond in court and argue against continuing the restrictions. However, restraining or protective orders may also be imposed after a defendant has been found guilty. In this case, the orders may last for a longer period of time, such as the length of a defendant’s probation. In some cases, the orders may last indefinitely to prevent the defendant from having any contact with the victim ever again.

If you violate a protective order, there is a law that says that arrest is mandatory. This takes the decision to arrest you away from the officer and guarantees an arrest. Police officers may arrest someone for violating a restraining order or a protective order without a warrant. All that is needed is probable cause to believe that the defendant violated the order. Violating a restraining order in Utah may also lead to additional charges, additional penalties, and new terms on the restraining order.

Violation of a restraining order or protective order is also a class A misdemeanor. Because the violation of a protective order is itself a domestic violence offense, the charge may be upgraded to a third-degree felony, and even harsher penalties will be imposed.

Victim’s Rights vs. Defendant’s Rights in Domestic Violence Cases in Utah

In any criminal trial, including a trial for domestic violence or abuse, the defendant must be afforded their constitutional rights. These rights include the right to a speedy trial, the right to an attorney, the right to a jury of their peers, the right to confront witnesses against them, and many others. Domestic violence cases are unique because courts must balance the safety and security of victims against the rights of the defendant. This means that certain precautions intended to protect victims from future abuse may come at a cost to the defendant.

Restraining and protective orders may be imposed at any hearing, including before trial has begun. To impose such a restraint against a defendant before they have been found guilty may seem unfair, but the court must protect the victim’s safety and well-being. If courts waited until after a trial was over to impose protective orders, the victim would be in danger of retaliation from the defendant for the duration of trial. Other precautions taken to protect victims include prohibiting defendants from possessing certain weapons or firearms or requiring defendants to wear devices that track their locations. Again, this may appear unfair to a defendant who has not yet gone through trial, and our attorneys will fight to limit these kinds of intrusions on your freedom.

Call Our Salt Lake City Domestic Violence Defense Lawyers for Help Fighting Charges Against You

If you were accused of a domestic violence crime, you may face arrest, restraining orders, and other potential penalties. Call our Salt Lake City criminal defense lawyers for help fighting any protective orders and charges filed against you. Our attorneys will help you protect your rights and fight to clear your name and keep these charges off your criminal record. Domestic violence charges are more complex than ordinary charges and they may carry additional penalties, depending on your circumstances. It is crucial to seek the assistance of a qualified Utah domestic violence defense attorney who can help you get the best possible outcome for your case. For a free legal consultation on your case, call Overson Law today at (801) 758-2287.


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