Domestic violence is unfortunately all too common in our society, especially when folks are cooped up together inside. Police take allegations of violence committed against a cohabitant, which is defined quite expansively under Utah domestic violence laws, extremely seriously. Even some non-violent offenses are considered domestic violence under the statute.
Along with this broad definition come some fairly severe penalties for a conviction, including enhanced sentences in some cases. Domestic violence cases often follow a somewhat different path than typical criminal cases because of their serious nature. Victims of domestic violence tend to be in very precarious positions as they may have difficulty staying away from their alleged abusers. Courts and law enforcement tend to take special precautions in these cases.
Below, our veteran Salt Lake City domestic violence defense lawyers at Overson & Bugden explain what will happen after you have been arrested for domestic violence and how we can help you get released and get your cases resolved in a satisfactory manner. Call our team for a free case evaluation at (801) 758-2287.
What Is Considered Domestic Violence in Utah?
Domestic violence is not a singular criminal charge in Utah. Utah domestic violence laws do not even refer to a few specific criminal charges. Domestic violence is like an umbrella term that could encompass any number of criminal charges as long as specific criteria are met. These criteria often require a certain kind of relationship between the defendant and the alleged victim. That relationship is often a romantic one but may also be familial.
Domestic violence occurs when one person commits a violent crime against someone they are married to, dating, or otherwise lives with. The victim must be a cohabitant of the defendant. It is sometimes difficult to pin down a precise definition of domestic violence because the conditions required for such charges are broad. Living together or having a romantic relationship are common elements of domestic violence, but they are not explicitly required. Many domestic violence situations involve people who do not live together or who are not romantically linked.
For example, a defendant who commits an act of violence against a person pregnant with their child could be charged with a domestic violence offense even though the two parties are not in a formal romantic relationship. Similarly, two people who live together but are not romantically connected could be the subject of a domestic violence incident. Most domestic violence charges tend to apply between spouses or partners, and you should call our Utah domestic violence defense attorneys if you are confused about your charges.
Utah Domestic Violence Laws
The laws surrounding domestic violence are a bit different than ordinary criminal laws. There are several different procedures when dealing with domestic violence charges. One such difference is the enhancement of offenses and penalties in domestic violence cases.
When a defendant is convicted of domestic violence crimes, their charges may be upgraded. According to Utah Code § 77-36-1.1, a person charged with an offense that would normally be a Class C misdemeanor will see their charges upgraded to Class B if they have had a domestic violence conviction within the last 10 years. The conviction need only be within the last 5 years if it were for criminal mischief. The same rule would upgrade a Class B misdemeanor to Class A. Similarly, your charges could be upgraded to third-degree felonies if various other conditions are met. Our Utah domestic violence defense attorneys can review our charges and criminal history to identify any possible enhancements.
Utah domestic violence laws also treat victims a bit differently than in standard criminal cases. While the safety of victims is important in any case, courts take special precautions in domestic violence cases where victims fear for their safety and wellbeing. According to Utah Code § 77-36-5, a defendant convicted of a domestic violence offense will be automatically restricted from even being near the victim. There may also be restrictions in place during the trial before a conviction is even determined.
When responding to domestic disputes or violence, officers are permitted to take special precautions to protect alleged victims. For example, under Utah Code § 77-36-2.1, officers can confiscate the defendant’s weapons, make arrangements for the alleged victim to stay elsewhere, and do anything else that is reasonably necessary to ensure the victim’s safety.
Guilty pleas in domestic violence cases are also treated differently. To be valid, a guilty plea must be approved and accepted by the prosecutor. The prosecutor is permitted to examine the perpetrator’s criminal history before accepting a guilty plea or a plea of no contest.
Do You Go to Jail after a Utah Domestic Violence Arrest?
After you are arrested under Utah domestic violence laws, you will likely spend at least a small amount of time behind bars. You will be transported to the local police station to be booked, which will involve you being photographed and fingerprinted and your biographical information being collected. After this, you will be kept in the station’s holding cell or at the local jail until your bail hearing can be held, usually within 72 hours at most. This hearing will determine whether or not you will have to stay in jail any longer.
The judge has three basic options at the bail hearing: release you on your own recognizance, meaning without bail, set bail, or rule that you cannot be released and must remain incarcerated until your underlying criminal charges are resolved. Usually, release on your own recognize is limited to situations where you are charged with a minor crime like vandalism. Denial of bail is reserved for the most serious charges like murder.
Typically for domestic violence cases, the judge will set bail. They will first and foremost consider the amount suggested in the Utah Uniform Bail Schedule, a state-issued guideline giving suggested bail amounts for each crime. However, the judge does have the discretion to raise or lower the suggested amount based on such factors as your criminal history, ties and contributions to the community, and whether you present a flight risk. Our experienced Utah bail hearing attorneys at Overson & Bugden know the most persuasive arguments to make to get the judge to release you on little to no bail.
If you cannot afford the amount set for bail, we can put you in touch with a licensed bail bondsman who can put up a surety bond in exchange for a fee. We can also make a motion for bail reconsideration. If you are released, you may have conditions to comply with, such as staying away from the alleged victim. If you fail to comply, the judge can revoke bail and hold you in jail until the case is finished. If you violate a protective order, you can also face new charges and further penalties.
What Types of Crimes Can Lead to a Domestic Violence Arrest in Utah?
The definition of domestic violence is broad in the State of Utah and can include not only physical violence but also some forms of emotional violence like stalking, harassment, and voyeurism. To fall under Utah’s domestic violence laws, the crime must be committed against a cohabitant, but the definition of cohabitant under the statute is broad. It includes not only people you currently live with but people you have formerly lived with, as well as ex-romantic partners you never lived with and any family related by marriage or blood, whether you have ever loved them or not.
Who Is a Cohabitant?
As mentioned above, Utah domestic violence laws typically require that the parties involved are “cohabitants.” At first glance, this term appears to refer to two or more people who live under the same roof. However, the legal definition of cohabitant is a bit more nuanced.
According to Utah Code § 77B-1-102(5), a cohabitant must be either an emancipated individual or someone who is at least 16 years of age. The individual must be your spouse or at least living as your spouse at the time of the domestic incident. If they are not a spouse, they must be related by blood or marriage as your parent, grandparent, or sibling. Other relatives may be included in this definition, but they must be related by blood to the second degree. A cohabitant can also be someone with whom you share children, is the parent of your unborn child, lives with you but is unrelated, or shared a consensual sexual relationship with you.
The law specifically states that a cohabitant is not someone who is a natural parent, adoptive parent, or step-parent if the alleged victim is a minor. The relationship between siblings -adopted, step, or foster – who are all under 18 is also not included in the definition of cohabitant.
If you were charged with domestic violence, but the relationship between you and the alleged victim does not meet the above definitions, call our Utah domestic violence defense attorneys for help right away.
How Can a Lawyer Help Get My Utah Domestic Violence Charges Dismissed or Downgraded?
After our team has dealt with getting you released from jail after your initial arrest, we can focus on working out a potential deal with the prosecutor. If this is your first domestic violence offense, we may be able to get the prosecutor to agree to let you enter into what is known as a plea in abeyance. A plea in abeyance is a guilty plea, but the plea is held, or put in abeyance, for a period of time, usually no more than a year, while you must comply with certain conditions set by the court and stay out of further legal trouble. Such conditions can include mandatory counseling or anger management classes. However, if you fail to comply with these conditions, the judge can enter your guilty plea, and you will be sentenced.
Other deals include the possibility of the charge being downgraded to something less serious, such as aggravated assault, a felony, being lowered to simple assault, a misdemeanor. The prosecutor can also agree to make a lenient sentencing recommendation, such as probation with no jail time, in exchange for you entering a guilty plea. If you do not wish to take a deal, our skilled trial attorneys at Overson & Bugden are always ready and able to defend you in the courtroom.
Penalties for Utah Domestic Violence Convictions
If you are convicted of or plead guilty to a domestic violence offense, you can face a wide range of penalties, including long jail sentences and high fines in some cases. Usually, the penalties for a domestic violence offense will be the same as for the underlying charge. For example, an act of harassment that qualifies as domestic violence will still be charged as a class B misdemeanor, punishable by up to 6 months in jail and up to $1,000 in fine. However, if you have a previous conviction for a domestic violence offense within the last ten years, the charge in some cases will be upped to whatever the next highest offense grade is. For example, a harassment charge after a previous domestic violence conviction will be upped to a class A misdemeanor, punishable by up to a year in jail and up to $2,500 in fines.
What Is a Protective Order?
Protective orders are special orders that typically apply in domestic violence cases. There are different types of protective orders for different types of cases. For example, there are protective orders for domestic violence cases involving sexual assault, dating violence, and stalking. When an order is imposed, the person charged with domestic violence, a.k.a. the respondent, must have zero contact with the victim. This means staying away from the victims’ home, work, school, or possibly anywhere else the victim is known to frequent. It also means no written, electronic, or digital communications.
Protective orders can be temporary or permanent. A temporary order is often imposed earlier in a case before a defendant is even found guilty If a defendant is convicted, the court might make the order final and permanent. This could potentially keep a defendant from seeing the children they share with the alleged victim. This could also require the defendant to move out of their home with the victim and their family.
While these orders can become permanent, they do not have to stay that way. Our Utah domestic violence defense lawyers can help you challenge any petition for a protective order or lift an order that has already been imposed.
Call Our Experienced Utah Criminal Defense Lawyers Today
Domestic violence convictions can come with serious penalties, including length jail stays in many cases. At Overson & Bugden, our seasoned Salt Lake City criminal defense attorneys will work to get you released from custody and then fight to get your charges downgraded or dismissed. For a free case review, call our firm today at (801) 758-2287.