If a person is charged with domestic violence, they may face many severe penalties if convicted. In some cases, being charged with a domestic violence crime could lead to other issues for the defendant. For example, a restraining order could lead to complications for the defendant if they live with the alleged victim.
If your alleged offense is labeled as an act of domestic violence, you might face increased charges and penalties. There may be numerous other consequences as well, like being forced to move out of your home or losing access to a firearm.
Overson & Bugden, is committed to working with you to help with your domestic violence case. Our Utah domestic violence charges defense attorneys are here for you in your time of need. To discuss your case, contact Overson Law at (801) 758-2287. We offer free initial case evaluations to help you get started.
Utah Domestic Violence Laws
The State of Utah defines domestic violence as physical harm or a threat of violence made by one cohabitant against another. Domestic violence is different from other claims like assault and battery because domestic violence typically occurs between family members, spouses, or other parties that live in the same household. Utah also criminalizes the attempt, conspiracy, or solicitation of a domestic violence crime.
Domestic violence crimes can take the form of many different crimes. For example, harassment is often charged as a domestic violence crime. Individuals can be charged with harassment if they frighten or intimidate another person using a written or recorded message. Harassment is often added to a defendant’s list of domestic violence-related offenses if the defendant contacts the victim after being arrested for domestic violence.
Domestic violence is not a singular charge nor a specific list of charges or offenses. The label of “domestic violence” may be applied to any case where one cohabitant harms another. Call our Utah domestic violence charges defense lawyers right away if you are facing domestic violence charges.
Who Can Be Charged with Domestic Violence in Utah?
Any person could potentially commit an act of criminal violence. However, only certain people can be charged with domestic violence crimes. As discussed above, domestic violence is not one charge but may apply to any charge that occurs under specific circumstances. Typically, to be considered an act of domestic violence, a crime must be committed against a cohabitant.
A cohabitant is broadly defined under Utah Code § 78B-7-102 as a person who lives with you, but the legal definition contains additional connotations. While a person you live with could be considered a cohabitant, others might also qualify for purposes of domestic violence charges.
For example, someone you are dating or have a romantic relationship with, but do not live with, might qualify. Also, someone carrying your child could qualify even if they do not live with you or consider themselves your romantic partner.
Other people are not considered cohabitants even if they live together. For example, a parent and a minor child are not considered cohabitants. Acts of violence by parents against their children are often labeled as child abuse or endangerment rather than domestic violence.
If you are charged with a domestic violence crime but do not believe the alleged victim counts, talk to our Utah domestic violence defense attorneys about your case today.
In some cases, a court may issue a restraining order against a defendant after an incident of domestic violence. The purpose of this restraining order is typically to prevent the defendant from abusing the alleged victim any further. However, this is not the only reason a court may issue a restraining order. Other reasons for a restraining order include the following:
When judges grant restraining orders in domestic violence cases, they expect the order to be followed. A person against whom a protective order is issued cannot contact the alleged victim. This prohibition extends to all forms of communication. The court will expect the alleged abuser to refrain from sending letters, e-mails, text messages, or voicemails. If a person violates their restraining order, they may face severe consequences.
If you have a restraining order against you, it is best to follow it. There have been countless cases where someone under a restraining order decides to confront the alleged victim. Contacting the alleged victim under these circumstances – even if you believe you are right – can work against you. For example, a judge may find you in contempt for breaching your restraining order, which can lead to penalties and additional charges. Our Utah domestic violence charges defense lawyers can help you understand what to expect from your restraining order and avoid costly mistakes.
Blocking Contact or Visits
Part of a restraining order may require you to refrain from visiting any place frequented by the alleged victim. Most of the time, the restraining order’s subject will be asked to stop visiting the alleged victim’s house, workplace, favorite supermarket, and any other place they may frequently visit.
This may be challenging for most people. This is especially true if their spouse filed the restraining order. There have been many instances where couples frequent the same places and may run into each other by accident. The alleged victim may see this as an attempt to make contact, which they can report. In these circumstances, you may run into trouble with the law.
Over our many years of practice in Utah, we have seen cases where a defendant may get in significant trouble for something out of their control. If you run into your ex-spouse or a domestic partner when a restraining order is in place, it is essential to contact a lawyer immediately. We can help you fight any allegation that may put your freedom at risk while under a restraining order in Utah.
Altering Child Custody Orders
The court may grant emergency child custody orders when a minor is under imminent danger or risk of harm. This is especially true in situations involving potential sexual abuse, physical abuse, and neglect – among other situations. If the alleged victim petitions for an emergency custody order, it can make it look like you are putting your children’s life or safety at risk. While this is a serious matter, the petitioner cannot just show up to court and argue that they need an emergency child custody order.
Typically, the party asking for an emergency child custody order has to prove their allegations. In other words, they need to make sure they have enough evidence to support their claim. If the other party cannot show, with evidence, that you are in any way a danger to your children, the emergency child custody order cannot be granted.
If the defendant is kicked out of their house because of a restraining order, child custody orders may also need to be put in place to arrange visitation or shared custody while you are out of the house.
Ex Parte Orders
If a court issues a pre-trial restraining order, the defendant will be charged with additional offenses if they violate the order before their trial.
A court may also issue an ex parte order even when a person has not been formally charged with domestic violence. This may occur if a victim has been abused (or believes they will be abused) petitions the court for protection. An ex parte order can result in the following circumstances:
- Prohibiting a defendant from owning a firearm or another dangerous weapon
- Awarding the petitioner temporary custody of children
- Preventing a defendant from committing further domestic violence
This is not an exhaustive list. To learn more about the penalties for domestic violence, you should continue reading and speak with an experienced Utah domestic violence defense lawyer. With your criminal defense attorney’s assistance, you can fight to make your case against the other party’s ex-parte petition. Our experienced domestic violence charges defense lawyers can help defend you against these petitions and uphold your rights.
Types of Abuse that Can Be Domestic Violence Charges in Utah
Domestic violence in Utah can take many different forms. There are multiple types of abuse that can qualify for domestic violence charges in Utah. These types of abuse can – and many times will – lead to devastating consequences and penalties:
Physical abuse is one of the most common types of domestic violence. Typically, it involves hitting, slapping, punching, and shoving – among many other violent actions. In short, any physical act inflicted upon a victim can be classified as physical abuse. If you have been charged with domestic violence for allegedly physically abusing someone, it is essential to get experienced legal representation.
There have been cases where one person alleges physical abuse to get back at their significant other. Things like jealousy often play a significant role in this type of allegation. However, with your criminal defense attorney’s assistance, you can fight these allegations by challenging the petitioner’s claims or alleged evidence. Our Utah domestic violence charges defense attorneys can assist you if you are charged with physical abuse.
Domestic violence can also take the form of sexual abuse. Sexual abuse happens when one person forces or coerces the victim into having unwanted sex. These allegations can lead to devastating criminal consequences if you are convicted. Moreover, many of these cases can also involve physical violence, which can aggravate any existing charges.
However, like with physical abuse cases, the government has to prove you forced or coerced the alleged victim into having sex without their consent. This is critical in your defense. There have been many cases where an estranged ex-spouse or domestic partner tries to make it look like sexual relations between you were not consensual. Proving you are innocent in these cases can be challenging. However, we can fight against your alleged sexual abuse charges and help protect your rights. No matter how big or small your sexual abuse case may be, calling our Utah domestic violence charges defense attorneys is essential.
Domestic violence can also result from emotional abuse. There have been countless cases where victims have been placed in an emotional abuse pattern that has caused extensive trauma.
Common examples of emotional abuse in a domestic relationship include invalidating the alleged victim’s sense of self-esteem and self-worth and the value of their existence. People charged with domestic violence involving emotional abuse can face severe penalties for harassment and other offenses. However, like the two previous examples, these allegations must be proven and supported by evidence. A mere allegation may not be enough to charge you with domestic violence based on emotional abuse. Our domestic violence charges defense lawyers can help.
These are only some examples of what may constitute domestic violence in Utah. In any of these scenarios, facing domestic violence charges can lead to criminal penalties and devastating consequences if convicted. No matter how big or small your situation may seem, hiring a competent criminal defense attorney is crucial. Over our years of practice with Utah’s criminal law, we have learned how crucial defending against your charges can be. It is in your best interest to let our domestic violence charges defense lawyers take over your case so you can avoid any mistakes that may cost you your freedom.
Penalties for a Domestic Violence Conviction in Utah
The criminal penalties imposed for a domestic violence offense will vary depending on the circumstances of a case. For example, suppose a defendant was previously convicted under domestic violence charges. In that case, the prosecutor may cite this as an aggravating factor and increase the possible penalties at sentencing.
An offense for domestic violence can range from a Class C misdemeanor to a third-degree felony. Misdemeanors are offenses that do not impose more than a year of jail time for a criminal conviction. Felonies carry penalties of at least one year.
In Utah, if a defendant is convicted of a Class C misdemeanor for domestic violence, they can be sentenced to a maximum of 90 days in jail and up to $750 in criminal fines. Class C misdemeanors are the least severe type of misdemeanor, and they carry the lowest penalties.
Suppose a defendant is charged with domestic violence after being convicted of a prior domestic violence charge within the past 10 years. In that case, the grade of the offense can be increased to a Class B misdemeanor. Class B misdemeanors have a maximum penalty of six months in jail and $1,000 in criminal fines.
As mentioned, domestic violence can also be graded as a Class A misdemeanor. Class A misdemeanors are the most severe type of misdemeanor. If convicted of a Class A misdemeanor, a defendant can be sentenced to up to 364 days in jail and owe up to $2,500 in fines.
A third-degree felony is typically the highest grade of felony imposed for domestic violence. When a defendant is convicted of a third-degree felony, they can be sentenced to a maximum of five years in prison and may owe up to $5,000 in fines.
Upgraded Penalties in Utah Domestic Violence Cases
Domestic violence charges and penalties are not always straightforward. The standard penalties in a domestic violence case could be upgraded if certain conditions are present. Conditions for upgrading domestic violence charges and penalties can be found under Utah Code § 77-36-1.1. You must typically have a qualifying domestic violence conviction on your record within the past 5 or 10 years for your domestic violence charges to be upgraded.
Typically, your charges are upgraded by one degree. For example, under these circumstances, a Class C misdemeanor becomes a Class B misdemeanor. To qualify for an upgrade, your current charges must be within 10 years of a prior domestic violence conviction or 5 years of a prior criminal mischief conviction. However, the rules are stricter when upgrading from a misdemeanor to a felony.
When upgrading to a felony, your original charges must be either Class A or B misdemeanors, and your previous domestic violence conviction must be within the last 10 years. Also, you must have another conviction within that same time frame. The time frame is shortened to 5 years when criminal mischief charges are involved. Our Utah domestic violence charges defense lawyers can help you if you believe your charges could be upgraded.
Defenses to Domestic Violence Charges in Utah
Domestic violence charges can be challenged similar to other offenses not labeled as domestic violence charges. However, there might be additional defense strategies to explore related to the domestic violence status of your case. Our Utah domestic violence charges defense attorneys have experience defending these kinds of cases and are prepared to help you.
You Do Not Fulfill the Cohabitant Rule
An alleged crime can only be charged as a domestic violence offense if the defendant and victim are cohabitants. If prosecutors charge you with domestic violence, but the alleged victim is not a cohabitant, we can fight the domestic violence label and possibly prevent your charges from being upgraded. However, this might not get your charges dropped or dismissed altogether.
Remember, a cohabitant is often described as a person who lives with you. Still, there are cases where people living separately are considered cohabitants within the context of a domestic violence case. For example, a person pregnant with your child may be considered a cohabitant even if the two of you live separately.
Alternatively, people who live together are not always cohabitants. If two roommates get into an argument that turns violent, there might not necessarily be any domestic violence issues. Roommates might live under the same roof, but that relationship does not label them as cohabitants for purposes of domestic violence charges.
If you have been charged with domestic violence but believe the alleged victim should not qualify as a cohabitant, we can challenge the charges against you. Prosecutors sometimes mischaracterize the relationships between defendants and alleged victims, and domestic violence charges are unfairly assessed. Our Utah domestic violence defense attorneys can help you prove the alleged victim in your case was not a cohabitant.
Challenging the Elements of Your Alleged Charges
To fight your charges, we need to challenge the elements the prosecutor is required to prove. These elements will vary from charge to charge. For example, the elements of domestic battery will not be the same as those of stalking. Consult with our Utah domestic violence charges defense attorneys about your case. The best defense tactics will be based on your case’s unique details.
As you know, various crimes may be labeled as domestic violence. Some crimes do indeed involve acts of violence, but others do not. For example, assault may be charged as domestic violence if it occurs between two cohabitants. Assault is with the use or attempted use of unlawful force to cause someone else bodily harm or create a risk of bodily harm. If you did in fact use force to harm a cohabitant, but the force was lawful, we might be able to get your charges dropped or dismissed. This could include situations where you acted in self-defense – in which case you may actually be the victim of domestic violence, not the aggressor.
Stalking is an example of a domestic violence offense that does not always involve physical violence. Stalking involves the elements of knowingly engaging in a course of conduct that causes the intended victim distress or fear. A common example is a defendant who follows a victim wherever they go. However, if your course of conduct was not knowing, and instead, you happened to be in the same places as the alleged victim by coincidence, we can challenge the stalking charges. Alternatively, if you show up at all the same places as the alleged victim because you live and work near each other, we can challenge those elements of your stalking charges.
Suppression of Evidence Against You
We can suppress evidence that should not be admitted in court in many cases. For example, if the police searched your home or seized evidence without a warrant or a valid exception to the warrant rule, that evidence can be blocked from being used in court.
Suppressing evidence is frequently done through pre-trial motions. In the criminal justice system, the prosecutor is required to share all relevant evidence they have with the defense. This allows the defense to build the most effective case possible. After all, it would be impossible to mount a defense if you have no idea what kind of evidence will be presented against you.
Once we know the evidence being presented against you, we can check it for legal errors. For example, that the government cannot use evidence from your house against you if the police did not obtain a warrant to conduct a search of your home. We can file a pre-trial motion to suppress illegally-obtained evidence like this.
In fact, any evidence that was not legally obtained may be suppressed. For example, if the police got you to confess before reading you your Miranda rights, your confession may be suppressed as well. Any evidence seized under an invalid warrant, or seizures that go beyond the boundaries of a warrant, may also be suppressed.
Suppressed evidence is not shown to a jury, and it in fact cannot be talked about at all. Even mentioning the existence of evidence that has been suppressed is a huge violation of your rights. If prosecutors try to talk about suppressed evidence at trial, we may have grounds to move for a mistrial or have the conviction overturned on appeal.
Witnesses With Reasons to Lie
We can also argue that the alleged victim and other witnesses testifying against you should not be trusted or have a reason to lie. Domestic violence cases are often very emotionally charged. Considering the defendant and alleged victim are often romantic partners, tensions can be expected to run high. In some cases, victims falsify or embellish evidence and information to make the defendant look bad. Sometimes, this is done to serve ulterior motives. Other times, it is out of pure spite.
If you believe the alleged victim is being untruthful about their allegations, we can help argue that they are lying. We need to know if you have ever known the victim to lie in the past. If we can compile a record of other times the victim has been caught in a lie –especially lies pertaining to domestic violence allegations – that would undermine the credibility of their testimony. If the victim accused you in the past and was caught lying, we can use that information to show they have a reputation for lying.
Even If the victim does not have a reputation for lying, they might still be motivated to lie now. For example, if perhaps you are in the middle of a contentious divorce, your spouse might accuse you of domestic violence because they think that will make it easier for them to get full custody of your children. We will need some evidence of their motive to lie beyond random accusations. For example, if you have been told by several of your partner’s friends that your partner has been planning to accuse you of domestic violence to get full custody of the kids, we can have them testify about that plan to lie.
Indirect Consequences of Domestic Violence Charges in Utah
There are more penalties other than the ones imposed directly by a judge. In many cases, defendants facing domestic violence charges suffer serious consequences before they are ever convicted. This is often because domestic violence defendants are often subjected to protective or restraining orders. These orders are designed to protect alleged victims who claim they fear for their safety and wellbeing. However, these orders come at the cost of the rights and freedoms of the defendant.
Loss of Weapons and Firearms
One such right that is infringed upon is your right to own and carry weapons or firearms. While the Second Amendment guarantees your right to bear arms, it does not prevent strict gun regulations when there is a firm reason to restrict gun access. Certain people, such as people with former felony convictions, are not permitted to own or carry firearms at all. People charged with domestic violence offenses also often have their weapons and firearms confiscated in many cases.
People bound by protective or restraining orders are often required to turn over any weapons they have to law enforcement for as long as the order is in effect. Even if the order is eventually lifted or it expires, getting your weapons returned is often difficult and requires a formal request to the police.
Unfortunately, if you are convicted of your domestic violence charges, you might not have your weapons returned to you. Additionally, it might be difficult or impossible to get a firearm license or permit in the future with a domestic violence conviction on your record. Our Utah domestic violence defense lawyers can help you fight your charges and protect your rights.
A restraining or protective order may also affect your relationship with people other than the alleged victim. In many domestic violence cases, the defendant and alleged victim are married, in a romantic relationship, or share children. They also tend to live together. A restraining or protective order could force you to move out of your home because you are no longer allowed near the alleged victim. You might also be restricted from seeing your shared children.
Domestic violence charges could seriously hinder your ability to live a normal life while dealing with your criminal charges. People accused of domestic violence tend to face harsh social backlash from their coworkers, friends, and neighbors. It is not unusual for people to lose important relationships after being charged with domestic violence. In many cases, people within the local community may believe you are guilty before you ever have a trial. Even if we can have your charges dropped or dismissed in a court of law, you might still be guilty in the court of public opinion. Talk to our Utah domestic violence charges defense lawyers about how to fight your case.
Work with Our Committed Utah Domestic Violence Charges Defense Attorney
If you were charged with domestic violence, you should consult with our experienced Utah domestic violence charges defense attorneys. For a free case review, contact Overson & Bugden, at (801) 758-2287.