What if You Were Arrested for Domestic Violence in Utah but Your Spouse Doesn’t Want to Press Charges?
Complaints regarding domestic violence are some of the most common calls police dispatchers receive here in Utah and across the country. It is typical for a fight between spouses or other cohabitants to get out of hand, and for one person to call the police. It is also typical that the complainant may not be completely honest with the officers and will later come to regret their decision and want the charges dropped. Many folks charged with domestic violence wonder if the charges will be dismissed at the request of the alleged victim. Below, our experienced Salt Lake City domestic violence defense attorneys explain whether a complainant can have the charges dropped, what charges qualify as domestic violence in Utah, and how we can help bring your case to a successful conclusion.
If the Complainant in a Utah Domestic Violence Case Asks Not to Press Charges, Will the Case Be Dismissed?
The alleged victim, or the person who calls the police reporting that they have experienced domestic violent, is called the “complainant” for the purposes of the criminal case. If the complainant, whether your spouse or any other cohabitant, at any point after your arrest changes their mind and asks for the charges to be dropped, the prosecutor is not required to dismiss the case. The case can proceed and you can be convicted even if the complainant has retracted their original statement and tells the prosecutor they do not want to press charges. This is because once the police have been involved and a report has been made, the charges against you are made on behalf of the state, rather than the alleged victim.
However, the complainant choosing not to cooperate with the case or actively saying that the events they originally described did not occur does make it far more difficult for the prosecutor to prove their case. If your spouse is going to take the stand and claim spousal privilege or testify that no domestic violence occurred, the prosecutor will have to rely on the original police report, the testimony of the reporting officers or other witnesses who may have been present, and any physical evidence such an photos of injuries or banged-up walls. This can still be enough to prove a case in some instances, but usually, without the testimony of the alleged victim, the case is quite weak and the prosecutor may be inclined to consider dismissal to save the court the time and resources that putting on a case would require.
What Crimes Qualify as Domestic Violence in Utah?
There is no single charge under the Utah Criminal Code known as domestic violence. Rather, domestic violence offenses are a class of charges committed against a person defined as a cohabitant that can result in further penalties and enhance sentences. First and foremost, any charge where you inflict violence or threaten to inflict violence on a cohabitant, such as assault or threatening with a deadly weapon, qualifies as domestic violence. However, other charges more related to emotional violence, such as voyeurism, stalking, and some forms of criminal mischief, can also qualify. The definition of a cohabitant under the statute is also quite broad and includes anyone you live with and also any current or prior romantic partner, whether or not you lived together, anyone you used to live with, and any person related by blood or marriage, whether or not you have ever lived with them.
Most times, the penalties you will face for a domestic violence offense are the same that you would face for the underlying charge. For example, stalking an ex-boyfriend would qualify as domestic violence, but would be charged based on the stalking statute, which typically classifies a first offense as a class A misdemeanor punishable by up to a year in jail and up to $2,500 in fines. However, if you have a previous conviction for a qualifying domestic violence offense within the past 10 years, your charges could be upped to the next highest time of crime of the books. For example, if you have a past conviction for stalking, a new charge would become a third-degree felony punishable by up to 5 years in prison and up to $5,000 in crimes.
How Can a Lawyer Help Me in a Utah Domestic Violence Case if My Spouse Does Not Wish to Press Charges?
If a pre-trial protective order is issued, as is the case in most cases, you will be required to leave your home if you share it with your spouse or whoever the complainant was. You will not be permitted to contact your spouse, even if they have since retracted their statement, if such an order is in place. However, our skilled domestic violence charges defense attorneys can reach out to your spouse or their attorney to figure out the status of their involvement. If the complainant has retracted their statement, we can request that the prosecutor drop the charges prior to your initial court appearance and have you released, though, as described earlier, there is no guarantee that they will do this.
If you are not released by the officers, our experienced Utah bail hearing attorneys will fight to get you out on little to no bail. Then we will begin negotiating with the prosecutor for the charges to be dismissed or downgraded. Even if the prosecutor will not drop the charges, the fact that your spouse does not wish for the case to proceed puts us in a stronger bargaining position to get a deal for something like a plea in abeyance, where your charged will be dropped if you complete the court’s requirements, like an anger management class, and stay out of trouble for a period of time. Of course, if you do not wish to take a deal, we can take your case to trial and argue that the jury cannot find proof beyond a reasonable doubt if the victim says the crime did not occur.
Call Our Experienced Salt Lake City Domestic Violence Attorneys Today
Even if your spouse does not wish to press domestic violence charges against you, the prosecutor can continue with the case. As such, it is always important to retain an experienced Salt Lake City criminal defense attorney like those at Overson Law, PLLC as soon as possible after an arrest for domestic violence. We will work to protect your rights and get the charges downgraded or dismissed. Call our firm today at (801) 758-2287 for a free consultation.