Farmington’s Compassionate Domestic Violence Attorney
Under Utah state law, domestic violence occurs in any instance in which an individual harms (or threatens to harm) a cohabitant, with “cohabitant” here defined as spouse (current or former), roommate, person with whom the perpetrator is intimately involved, sibling/in-law and person with whom the offender shares custody of a child or children.
Additionally, Utah state law considers any violent offense, including harassment, stalking, violating a restraining order and/or assault to be domestic violence if committed by one cohabitant against another.
Being Arrested for Domestic Violence
Perhaps not surprisingly, if a law enforcement official determines that there is reasonable cause to believe domestic violence has occurred, he or she must issue an arrest, even in the absence of a warrant. If there is cause for the law enforcement official to believe that the victim will continue to be in danger, or if the offender has recently caused serious injury or employed a firearm, the officer must issue an arrest and take the defendant into custody. Should you find yourself arrested for domestic violence, you will not be released before the next court date (at a minimum), and you will be barred from contacting the victim for any reason.
Under Utah state law, a protective order (i.e. restraining order) is a court order requiring one person (i.e. the defendant) to avoid contact and stay away from another person (i.e. the victim). Keep in mind that it is against the law to violate a protective order. Additionally, Utah allows for its judges to issue pre-trial protective orders, in effect prohibiting the defendant from committing and/or threatening violent acts against the victim, as well as banning any communication between the two parties. Pre-trial protective orders remain in effect until the date of the trial.
Ex Parte Orders
Even in the absence of charges, any cohabitant who has been the victim (or is in danger) of domestic violence or abuse may also file a petition for an ex parte order under Utah state law. These orders are made without notice to the defendant and without the defendant first appearing before a judge. In theory, ex parte orders prohibit the offender from engaging in violent acts against the victim. They also ban any and all contact between the two parties and prohibit the defendant from showing up at the victim’s residence, school or place of employment. During an outstanding ex parte order, the offender is also barred from owning a weapon, operating a vehicle and sharing custody of his or her children.
Punishments for Domestic Violence in Utah
In the event that an offender contacts his or her victim before being released on a domestic violence charge, they will have committed a class B misdemeanor and could face up to six months in jail and a fine not exceeding $1,000. If the initial charge was considered a felony, the potential punishment(s) is a prison term up to five years and a fine not exceeding $5,000. If the initial charge was considered a misdemeanor, the potential punishment(s) is a prison term up to one year and a fine not exceeding $2,500.
Domestic Violence in the Presence of a Child
In Utah, domestic violence in the presence of a child (or children) carries even stiffer penalties, with state law allowing for an individual to be charged with separate counts for each child present. Based on our experience with previous clients, this statute does not clearly define its own parameters, meaning that something as simple as being within earshot of the violence can, legally speaking, be considered domestic violence in the “presence of the child.”