Utah defines domestic violence as “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.”
A conviction for a first, low-level domestic violence offense is generally regarded as a Class C misdemeanor, punishable by up to six months in jail and a $1,950 fine, and a second Class B misdemeanor within the next five years will bump up to Class A misdemeanor, punishable by up to a year in jail and a fine of up to $4,875. A repeat offense of a Class A misdemeanor is punishable as a third-degree felony, with up to five years in jail and a fine of $9,750.
A charge is escalated if a firearm is brandished or used in the domestic violence crime. It will also escalate if the offense occurs when a child or children are present.
A charge may also escalate if it is committed while a protective order is in effect.
Utah does not allow pretrial diversion of domestic violence charges, but a “plea in abeyance” may be permitted. In exchange for the offender’s guilty plea, the court may refrain from entering the plea and trying the case, subjecting the offender instead to a set of conditions. If these conditions are satisfied, the case is dismissed and the defendant may file to have the incident expunged after a 30-day waiting period.
The Utah domestic violence attorney’s at Fillmore Spencer LLC help victims of domestic violence obtain orders of protection when they fear for their safety.
Pretrial protective orders are short-term orders barring proximity and communication between the parties while charges are pending. Ex parte protective orders are issued by the court when there are no charges pending. The order is made without notice to the defendant and may be in effect for up to 20 days before a hearing must be held. If the court finds there is a good reason to delay the hearing, the order may be extended by up to 180 days.
For protective orders of longer duration, a conviction or a hearing is required. If a hearing occurs, the petitioner must subpoena the respondent and both must attend the hearing, where the petitioner must produce evidence supporting his or her fear of physical harm. Following a hearing, the court may also issue an order granting custody and visitation of any children, as well as any relief that can be granted as part of an ex parte order. Generally, the civil provisions of a protective order remain in effect for 150 days, while criminal provisions remain in effect for two years.
Besides prison time and fines, a conviction on domestic violence charges can cost you your job, difficulties in finding new work or renting an apartment, the loss of your right to carry firearms and loss of primary or joint custody of your children. The issuance of a restraining order might prevent you from seeing your children, or limit you to supervised visitation. Domestic violence charges can also negatively influence the property division and alimony aspects of a pending divorce — all the more reason to retain a qualified, experienced criminal defense attorney when you are charged with or investigated for domestic violence.
The “he says, she says” nature of domestic violence cases presents difficulties for the police and courts. If an officer in Utah has good reason to believe the victim will be in danger or that the defendant has recently caused serious injury or used a dangerous weapon, the officer must arrest the defendant. Fillmore Spencer LLC helps those wrongly accused of domestic violence defend their good name or at least mitigate repercussions. We also help domestic violence victims obtain court-ordered protection, and enforcement of that protection. Call us today at (801) 426-8200 or contact Fillmore Spencer LLC online to discuss your circumstances confidentially with us.