How Is Domestic Violence Defined In Utah?

Domestic violence means any criminal offense involving violence or physical harm with a cohabitant, including assault, a threat of violence or physical harm, or an attempt to commit a criminal offense involving violence or physical harm. Cohabitants refer to people living together as boyfriend/girlfriend, spouses, or the parents of a child. When we say domestic violence, we are talking about a criminal offense that involves a cohabitant. There can be domestic violence assault, domestic violence criminal mischief and domestic violence in the presence of children. Criminal mischief essentially means damaging property. For example, if you and your spouse got into an argument and you threw a plate, causing it to break, then that would be considered criminal mischief. If your children were present during that time, that would be considered domestic violence in the presence of children. I’d like to think of it as an enhancement; it’s more serious because of the familial relationship.

How Serious Are Domestic Violence Allegations In Utah?

In Utah, once the police show up to a domestic violence call, there is about a 95% chance that one person is going to go to jail. It’s almost an unwritten rule that if they have to go out there and get in the middle of your familial relationships, then someone is going to jail. It just seems that way; it’s not an official rule. When that person goes to jail, they don’t automatically get a bail or a bond like they would with other offenses, such as DUI or theft. A lot of times they have to wait there until they can be seen by a judge. They are prohibited from contacting the alleged victim, and they are not going to be able to reach them through the phones at the jail. If they go in on a Friday night, they might not see a judge until Monday morning. Even if they do get out of jail on Monday morning, the terms of the release will disallow them from having any contact with the alleged victim. That means that they won’t be allowed to enter the residence without the assistance of a police officer- not even to gather some clothes for work. So, these are very serious charges that are very difficult to work around once an individual has been charged with them.

Are Orders Of Protection Automatically Placed In A Domestic Violence Case?

If charges are filed, part of the prosecutor’s duty is to contact the alleged victim or victims and see if they want the criminal court to enter an order of protection. An order of protection is not ordered automatically; it’s the prosecutor’s obligation to make contact with the victim and see what they want. If they want that order in place, then it could stay in place as long as the criminal court has jurisdiction over the case. Depending on the outcome of the case, that could be 12 to 18 months. I see those orders of protection being issued quite frequently because the victims are afraid and worried about their children, their health and their safety.

How Are Domestic Violence Charges Determined To Be Either A Misdemeanor Or A Felony?

There are different things that can make a charge a felony versus a misdemeanor. Aggravated assault, the use of a weapon, very serious injury, and criminal mischief resulting in over $2,500 worth of damage could all lead to felony charges. Another factor that’s taken into consideration is whether or not there are prior domestic violence convictions. For example, if you have an ongoing problem with one of your family members and you were charged and convicted with domestic violence a year ago, then your next domestic violence offense could be enhanced to a Class A misdemeanor. If you have another episode six months down the road, then that can be a felony. Basically, the determining factors are the classification of the charge, the seriousness of the damage involved and prior convictions.

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