I Was Charged With Domestic Violence In Utah, But I Was Acting In Self-Defense; Shouldn’t I Have The Right To Defend Myself?

Self-defense is a legal defense that can be used in some domestic violence cases, but not all. For example, domestic violence in the presence of a child is a class B misdemeanor charge for which the defense of self-defense would not work. Similarly, domestic violence involving disorderly conduct or criminal mischief charges could not be defended with a self-defense argument. Assault-related domestic violence cases can certainly be defended with an argument of self-defense.

I Have A Prior Conviction For Assault That Was Not Related To Domestic Violence, And I Was Recently Charged With Domestic Violence In Utah; Will The Judge Automatically Assume That I’m Guilty?

A judge will not assume a defendant’s guilt simply because they have a prior conviction on their record. In fact, most judges don’t know very much about the defendants that appear before them in court; they generally only read the police report associated with the specific incident at hand. However, if the defense attorney requests a lower bail amount, then the prosecutor might inform the judge of the prior conviction. If the prosecutor is charging a misdemeanor, then the judge might infer that there is a prior conviction. Prior to sentencing, the judge would be made aware of prior criminal acts, but wouldn’t deem the defendant guilty of the new charge as a result of this. According to the US Constitution, a person is presumed innocent until proven guilty, and this is something which everyone must uphold.

Have You Been Charged With Domestic Violence In Utah?

Domestic violence charges in Utah are serious. If convicted, you can face jail time, fines, and loss of parental custody rights. A conviction can also impact your job, your reputation, and relationships with family and friends.

What Constitutes Domestic Violence In Utah?

The term “domestic violence” can be confusing because it is not limited to physical violence towards a spouse, like many people assume. Many of our clients often do not understand what makes their case fall under domestic violence.

The law says that any crime that involves a cohabitant can be charged as domestic violence, as long as that crime has some sort of physical or emotional threat or violence associated with it. So destruction of property, which is called criminal mischief, can be classified as domestic violence, or assault can be classified as domestic violence if it involves a cohabitant.

Utah law defines a cohabitant as someone you have ever lived with, or someone that you are related to by blood or marriage, or someone with whom you have a child. This could involve roommates, ex-roommates, siblings, spouses, or ex-spouses. If you are not currently living with that person, but you have if you have lived with them previously, then they are considered a cohabitant.

There are many behaviors that are defined as domestic violence in Utah. They include:

  • Physical assault or threat of assault
  • Harassment over the phone or electronic devices
  • Stalking
  • Detaining someone against their will
  • Possessing of a deadly weapon with criminal intent
  • Threatening someone with a weapon
  • Homicide
  • Harming an animal with the intent to harass or threaten
  • Sexual assault
  • Burglary
  • Criminal trespass
What Are The Penalties If Charged With Domestic Violence In Utah?

Depending on the seriousness of the crime, domestic violence can be charged as a felony or misdemeanor. In the state of Utah, penalties include but are not limited to:

  • A third-degree felony. Punishable by up to five years in prison and a fine of up to $5,000.
  • A second-degree felony. Punishable by up to fifteen years in prison, and a fine of up to $10,000 fine.
  • A class A misdemeanor. Punishable by up to one year in prison, and a fine of up to $1,000.
  • A class B misdemeanor. Punishable by up to six months in prison and a fine of up to $1,000.

Additionally, the court may make the offender:

  • Wear a monitoring bracelet
  • Complete a treatment program for domestic violence offenders
  • Attend an anger management program.
  • Order no contact with the victim
  • Make the offender leave their residence (if they live with the victim)
  • Suspend child visitation rights
What If I Was Acting In Self-Defense?

Under certain conditions, self-defense can be used as a legal defense if you were charged with domestic violence in Utah. Self-defense can be claimed if you used force to protect yourself against domestic violence. If you are able to prove in court that your use of force against another person was in self-defense, then you are entitled to a not guilty verdict.

For some cases, you cannot claim self-defense. For example, domestic violence in the presence of a child is a class B misdemeanor charge for which the defense of self-defense would not work. Similarly, domestic violence involving disorderly conduct or criminal mischief charges could not be defended with a self-defense argument.

Will A Prior Conviction For Assault, Unrelated To Domestic Violence, Impact How The Judge Perceives Me?

A judge will never assume you are guilty based on the fact that you have a prior conviction on your record. In fact, most judges are unaware of the defendants that appear before them in court. They read the police report associated with the specific incident and have no interest in prior convictions.

However, the prosecutor may bring up any prior convictions if they believe that it will help their case or sway the judge’s opinion. For example, the prosecutor may mention prior convictions if they want the judge to set bail at a higher amount than the defense requested.

Prior to sentencing, the judge would be made aware of prior criminal acts, but wouldn’t deem the defendant guilty of the new charge as a result of this. According to the U.S. Constitution, a person charged with a crime is presumed innocent until proven guilty beyond a reasonable doubt. Every judge and jury muse uphold that ideal no matter who appears before them.

Your Best Defense Against Domestic Violence Charges In Utah

If you’ve been charged with domestic violence in Utah, then you need a lawyer who will fight for your rights every step of the way. Call (801) 309-6966 today for a free consultation and an explanation of your legal options.

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