What Types of Actions Are Considered Domestic Abuse in Utah?
When people think of domestic abuse, they tend to think of a situation where one spouse is physically beating another. However, the definition of domestic violence under Utah law is far broader than that, and can include not just physical violence but emotional violence as well. Furthermore, the potential penalties can vary and will be greater for those who have prior convictions for domestic violence offenses. Below, our skilled Salt Lake City domestic violence defense lawyers at Overson Law, PLLC explain what crimes in the state of Utah are considered domestic violence offenses, how being charged with an offense that qualifies as domestic violence can change your case, and how we can help you bring the matter to the most positive possible resolution.
What Charges in Utah Are Considered Domestic Violence Offenses?
There is no single charge called “domestic violence” under the Utah criminal code. Instead, domestic violence or domestic abuse are ways of referring to a particular class of crimes committed against a particular class of persons. Specifically, “any criminal offense involving violence or physical harm or threat of violence or physical harm, or any attempt, conspiracy, or solicitation to commit a criminal offense involving violence or physical harm, when committed by one cohabitant against another” is defined as domestic violence.
The statute goes on to provide a list of qualifying charges, stating that the definition of domestic violence “includes commission or attempt to commit, any of the following offenses by one cohabitant against another.” Some charges that can be considered domestic violence offenses under the non-exhaustive list provided in the statute are obviously violent offenses such as assault, homicide, child abuse, threatening with a deadly weapon, and violent sexual offenses like rape or sexual battery, or kidnapping. However, some seemingly non-violent offenses like stalking, harassment, electronic communication harassment, voyeurism are also listed. Even criminal mischief, such as throwing your cohabitant’s vase against the wall during an argument, can qualify in some instances.
The definition of a cohabitant under the statue is also quite broad. Not only does it include spouses, people in relationships that live together, whether they are platonic roommates, family members, or romantic partners, but also any ex-spouse or a person that you either lived with or were in a consensual relationship previously. Furthermore, any relative by blood or marriage and any person with whom you share a born or unborn child also qualify as cohabitants for the purpose of the statute.
Because the range of charges that can be classified as domestic violence if committed by one cohabitant against another is so broad, it is best to consult and experienced Salt Lake City criminal defense lawyer like those at Overson Law, PLLC who can help you understand whether your charge qualifies.
Penalties for Domestic Violence Offenses in Utah
Due to the fact that there is not single domestic violence charge, but rather a broad class of crimes that can be considered domestic violence offenses, there are a wide variety of penalties that can be imposed. If this is your first domestic violence offense, meaning you do not have any qualifying previous conditions, the penalties will be the same as whatever they are for the underlying offense. For example, an assault against a cohabitant will still be a Class B misdemeanor punishable by up to six months in jail and fines up to $1,000.
Where the domestic violence offense label comes into play in terms of sentencing is if you have prior domestic violence convictions. If you have been convicted of a domestic violence offense listed in the statute, not including criminal mischief, within the past 10 years, new offenses will essentially contain a sentence enhancement policy. Those previously convicted of a class C misdemeanor will have their charge upped to a class B misdemeanor, those previously convicted of a class B misdemeanor can have their charge upped to a class A misdemeanor, and those previously convicted of a class A misdemeanor will have their charged upped to a third-degree felony.
Furthermore, those previously convicted of criminal mischief domestic violence offenses can also receive sentence enhancement in some cases. If a domestic violence offense is committed within 5 years of a conviction for criminal mischief domestic violence, you will have their charges upped in the same manner as described above for other domestic violence offenses, with a Class C turning to a Class B, etc.
What Happens after I am Arrested for Domestic Violence in Utah?
After an arrest, you will be taken to the local police station for the booking process and held in their holding cell or at the county jail until your initial appearance and bail hearing can occur, usually no more than 72 hours after your arrest. It is important to have an experienced Utah bail hearing attorney like those at Overson Law, PLLC represent you at this hearing, where the judge will decide if you can be released and how high to set bail. Furthermore, if the complainant wants a temporary protective order imposed against you, it will be. This can be problematic if you live with them, in which case you will be forced to find new housing, at least temporarily. The prosecutor can also continue with the charge even if the complainant asks for it to be dismissed.
After you have been released, we will work to get you a deal where your charges are dismissed or downgraded. This includes the possibility of a plea in abeyance where the charges will be dismissed if you complete the program and stay out of trouble for the probationary period. Of course, if you do not wish to take a deal, our skilled trial lawyers at Overson Law, PLLC are always willing and able to defend your innocence in the courtroom.
If You Are Facing Domestic Violence Charges, Call Our Experienced Utah Criminal Defense Lawyers Today
Being charged with a domestic violence offense can mean greater penalties and serious consequences like a temporary restraining order. At Overson Law, PLLC our criminal defense attorneys will be there with you through the entire case, answering your questions, fighting for your rights, and working to bring the matter to the best possible resolution for you. Call us today at (801) 758-2287 for a free consultation.