Domestic violence is not a criminal charge by itself but instead refers to a category of offenses. This category typically covers crimes against domestic partners and members of a household. In most cases, the defendant and the alleged victim live together. Domestic violence charges are commonly applied in family situations in which one partner is abusive towards other family members. However, it can also cover things like dating relationships where the parties do not live together.
Domestic violence charges may result in upgrades to certain criminal charges or sentences. In addition, you may be bound by restraining or protective orders that prevent you from seeing your family or even your children. Domestic violence cases are met with minimal sympathy for defendants and are often faced with severe community backlash. Depending on your circumstances, it may be challenging to find a sympathetic jury.
If you have been accused of or arrested for domestic violence-related charges, speak with our Salt Lake City domestic violence lawyers right away. Our staff has experience dealing with these types of charges and we will work to protect your rights and clear your name. For a free and confidential legal consultation, call Overson & Bugden at (801) 758-2287.
Were You Arrested for Domestic Violence in Salt Lake City?
Domestic violence is sometimes referred to as “family violence,” “domestic abuse,” “spousal abuse,” “battering,” or “intimate partner violence” (IPV). Regardless of the term being used, domestic violence is not a specific criminal charge like burglary or robbery, but a broad term that can be applied to numerous crimes depending on the circumstances. As a result, two defendants can be charged with completely different offenses, yet both be facing domestic violence allegations.
If you were charged with a domestic violence crime in Salt Lake City or other areas of Utah, or if a spouse or family member was arrested on domestic violence charges, you need to contact a defense attorney immediately. The criminal penalties for domestic abuse and related offenses are severe and can include incarceration in jail or prison, fines, restitution, and the loss of firearm privileges. For members of the military or police officers, this restriction on gun ownership effectively amounts to the end of the defendant’s career. Our Salt Lake City domestic violence lawyers are here to assist in any way possible.
How Domestic Abuse Cases Work in Salt Lake City
Under Utah Code § 77-36-1(4), state law defines domestic violence as “any criminal offense involving violence or physical harm or threat of violence or physical harm, or any attempt… to commit a criminal offense involving violence or physical harm, when committed by one cohabitant against another.” In other words, domestic abuse is a violent crime or attempted violent crime against a person the defendant lives with. If the police have probable cause to believe you committed an act of domestic violence, you will be arrested.
After being arrested for domestic abuse during coronavirus, you will be taken to the local police station for what is known as the booking process. During this process, you will be fingerprinted and photographed and any items you had on you at the time of your arrest will be inventoried for safekeeping. After this, the police will keep you in a holding cell until you can be brought before a judge for an arraignment and bail hearing.
At this hearing, the judge will decide whether you can be released on bail and at what amount bail will be set. An experienced bail hearing defense attorney like those at Overson Law, PLLC can fight to get you released with minimal to no bail. However, in domestic violence cases, these hearings usually address another matter as well. Under Utah Code § 77-36-2.7(3)(a), “[W]hen any defendant is charged with a crime involving domestic violence, the court may, during any court hearing where the defendant is present, issue a pretrial protective order,” or restraining order, which the defendant is bound to follow.
If you are released on bail but a restraining order is issued against you, as if often the case in these matters, you will not be able to return to the home you shared with the alleged victim. The police may allow you to return there to obtain some items under their supervision, but after that you will have to find another place to stay until the court holds a hearing on the issuance of a final restraining order. Violating a pre-trial protective order is a crime.
Fines and Sentencing Guidelines for Spousal Abuse in Salt Lake City
Domestic violence charges may be charged as misdemeanors or felonies, depending on the nature of the offense. As such, the penalties will vary from case to case depending on your unique circumstances. Incarceration time and criminal fines for domestic violence crimes depend on factors like:
- How the offense is categorized (e.g., is it a Class C or a Class B misdemeanor)
- Whether it is the defendant’s first domestic violence offense or a subsequent offense
- Whether there were any aggravating factors
In Utah, if a defendant is convicted of a Class C misdemeanor, they can receive up to 90 days in jail and a fine of up to $750. If a defendant is convicted of a Class B misdemeanor, they can be sentenced to a maximum of six months in jail and $1,000 of criminal fines. Class A misdemeanors carry the most severe penalties out of all types of misdemeanors. In Utah, Class A misdemeanors carry a maximum of one year in jail and $2,500 of fines.
If a defendant is charged with a felony for domestic violence, they will face more severe penalties than those imposed for misdemeanors. If a defendant is convicted of a third-degree felony, the defendant can be sentenced to a maximum of five years in prison and could owe $5,000 in criminal penalties. A second-degree felony conviction may land you in jail for at least 1 year but no more than 15 years. For a first-degree domestic violence conviction, a defendant may face at least 5 years in prison and up to life.
Defendants convicted of a Class B or Class C misdemeanor may be able to perform compensatory service to avoid paying any criminal fines. Compensatory service is unpaid work where a defendant will earn money that goes toward the cost of their criminal fines. A defendant can perform compensatory service for state or local agencies, nonprofit organizations, and even a private organization pending approval from the court.
To learn more about factors that can affect criminal sentencing, you should continue reading and speak with an experienced Salt Lake City criminal defense lawyer.
Upgrades in Charges for Subsequent Domestic Violence Convictions in Salt Lake City
The punishment for domestic violence in Utah can be severe, especially if it is the defendant’s second or third offense. Under Utah Code § 77-36-1.1, state law establishes enhanced penalties for multiple domestic violence convictions.
It is important to note that the criminal penalties for domestic violence will vary depending on the circumstances of your case. For example, if a defendant has a domestic violence conviction in their past and is later convicted of a domestic abuse crime that is normally a Class C misdemeanor, the crime will be treated as a Class B misdemeanor. Class B misdemeanors are more severe if the second offense was committed within five years of the first. Under the same circumstances, a Class B misdemeanor will become a Class A misdemeanor, and a Class A misdemeanor will become a third-degree felony.
Only convictions will count against you when upgrading charges for subsequent offenses. A previous accusation that did not result in a conviction will not be considered a prior domestic violence offense. Similarly, juvenile adjudications for domestic violence will not count towards upgrades for subsequent offenses. If you believe you have prior domestic violence convictions that may count against you, please get in touch with our Salt Lake City domestic violence attorneys as soon as possible.
Factors that May Affect Sentencing for Domestic Violence in Salt Lake City
There are a number of aggravating and mitigating factors that can affect the criminal penalties for a defendant. Aggravating factors have the potential to increase the severity of penalties if a defendant is convicted. For example, if the victim in the case was severely injured due to domestic abuse, this could increase a defendant’s penalties if they are convicted. Other aggravating factors that can increase criminal penalties for a domestic abuse case:
- The defendant had authority over the victim
- The victim was more vulnerable than the average person (e.g., disabled, mental infirmity)
- The defendant committed an especially heinous crime
- A defendant used a dangerous weapon to commit the domestic abuse
- The defendant hurt a child or hurt another family member in the presence of a child
- The defendant was previously convicted of a similar offense
Alternatively, mitigating factors may decrease the penalties for a criminal sentence. For instance, if a defendant had fully cooperated with law enforcement, this may help reduce some criminal penalties. Additionally, if a defendant has developmental disabilities, the court is willing to consider this as a mitigating factor.
If you are concerned about the possible penalties that can be imposed for the crime you were charged with, you should not hesitate to speak with an experienced defense attorney as soon as possible. Our Salt Lake City domestic violence lawyers can help you explore your legal options to determine the appropriate steps to take in your case.
Penalties for Violating a Restraining Order After a Domestic Violence Incident in Salt Lake City
The Utah Code contains laws that create unique conditions for domestic violence charges. Under Utah Code § 77-36-2.7(3)(a), in a domestic violence case, the court can issue a protective order or restraining order in any hearing at which the defendant is present, which the defendant is bound to follow.
A restraining order is a court order that makes it illegal for a person (usually the defendant) to come within a certain range of another person (often the victim). If a victim believes that the defendant poses a reasonable risk, they can request the court to grant them a restraining order. The order may also prevent the defendant from having any contact, including phone calls, emails, and text messages, with the alleged victim or other members of their family.
A restraining order can have a number of impacts between spouses or individuals in a relationship. For example, if a restraining order is issued against a spouse who is also a cohabitant, their living situation may have to change. Restraining orders sometimes require defendants to move out of their homes and find somewhere else to live.
In some cases, a victim could petition the court for an ex parte order even if there is no upcoming trial against their alleged abuser. Ex parte orders are similar to restraining orders in that they prevent a person from performing certain actions or restrict certain rights. For example, a victim may be awarded temporary custody of children as part of an ex parte order.
It is a serious crime to violate a restraining order issued in response to a domestic violence charge. If the underlying charge was a misdemeanor, violating the resulting restraining order is a Class A misdemeanor. If the underlying charge was a felony, violating the resulting restraining order is a third-degree felony. If you have been bound by a restraining or protective order, speak with our Salt Lake City domestic violence attorneys about your case today.
Can Domestic Assault Charges Be Dropped in Salt Lake City?
Movies and TV shows often make it seem as though crime victims can drop charges at will. In reality, however, this is not the case. Though it is common for spouses, romantic partners, and family members to try to drop charges after accusing another of domestic abuse, the ultimate decision about filing charges is up to the prosecutor after the police have been notified about the alleged crime. If the prosecutor cannot gather adequate evidence, the case may be dismissed. However, the prosecutor can also proceed without help or testimony from the victim if they feel they have a strong case.
While victims have no authority to drop the charges against you in a domestic violence case, they may be able to have restraining or protective orders lifted. In cases where the order is put in place at the victim’s request, the victim may also ask the court to lift the order. This is common in cases where the parties decide to reconcile. However, this will not affect your criminal charges and you may still have to stand trial. Our Salt Lake City domestic violence lawyers can help you with your charges.
How a Domestic Violence Conviction Affects Your Right to Own a Firearm in Salt Lake City
Being convicted of a domestic violence-related crime in Utah may result in the loss of certain gun ownership rights. This loss of your rights will be determined based on whether you are designated a Category I or Category II restricted person. Both categories tend to apply to domestic violence defendants who have been convicted of a violent felony. Defendants who are subject to a protective or restraining order may also be included. Defendants convicted of misdemeanors are generally not restricted persons unless bound by a protective or restraining order.
A Category I restricted person is often treated a bit more severely than a Category II restricted person. For Category I, a defendant may be guilty of a second-degree felony if they knowingly or intentionally purchase, transfer, possess, uses, or otherwise have control over a firearm. If they possess any dangerous weapon other than a firearm, they may be guilty of a third-degree felony. For Category II, these penalties may be third-degree felonies and class A misdemeanors, respectively.
These restrictions may apply to any defendant convicted of certain violent felonies, not just domestic violence defendants. However, certain domestic violence-related circumstances may influence which category you fall under. For example, a defendant who is convicted of committing an act of domestic violence in the presence of a child will be a Category I restricted person rather than Category II.
If you are unsure about the status of your rights to own and possess and a firearm, speak with our Salt Lake City domestic violence attorneys right away. We can help you understand the nature of your charges and help you avoid penalties for unlawful firearm possession.
Domestic Violence Convictions on Your Criminal Record in Salt Lake City
If you are convicted of a domestic-violence related crime in Utah, the conviction will appear on your criminal record. The conviction may be visible to certain government entities or employers performing background checks. You may also be required to report the conviction when asked about your criminal record by potential employers or other agencies. For example, if you apply for some form of public assistance, you may be asked to disclose your criminal history. A domestic violence conviction may impair your ability to find work or receive benefits.
It may be possible to expunge your conviction once your sentence has been served. However, not all crimes can be expunged. If you were convicted of a domestic violence-related crime that was especially violent, you may be ineligible for expungement. Call our Salt Lake City domestic violence lawyers to discuss the possibility of expunging your domestic violence convictions.
Our Salt Lake City Domestic Violence Defense Lawyers Can Help
If you or someone you love was arrested for domestic violence in Utah, our Salt Lake City domestic violence attorneys can help. Not only could you receive severe penalties, but a conviction could also drastically and permanently alter the way you are perceived by your friends, family, coworkers, and community. Domestic violence charges demand urgent legal attention. Call the law offices of Overson & Bugden at (801) 758-2287 immediately for a free and confidential consultation.