Domestic Violence Laws in Utah
Violent crimes such as assault, stalking, kidnapping, sexual offenses, harassment, mutual property damage, or violating a protective order against a cohabitant is considered domestic violence. Cohabitants include spouses, former spouses, people who are living together, people related by blood, and people who have children together.
In the State of Utah, if a police officer has probable cause to believe that domestic violence had taken place, they will make an arrest without a warrant or a citation. The purpose is to protect the victim by taking the defendant into custody.
Typically, if a defendant is arrested for domestic violence, they are ordered to not personally contact the victim before they are released from jail prior to the next Court day. In some cases, a defendant may be released from jail prior to a Court proceeding if the defendant agrees on a number of conditions, including the following:
- Not to personally contact the victim
- Not to harass the victim
- Not to go to the victim’s residence
Sometimes referred to as restraining orders, protective orders are issued by the Court. It is typically considered a crime to violate a protective order in Utah. Defendants charged with domestic violence are often times issued a pretrial protective order. This order may involve a number of restrictions, including the following:
- Prohibiting the defendant from further acts of violence or threats
- Mandating the defendant not contact the victim
- Excluding the defendant from the victim’s residence, school, or work place
Ex Parte Orders
Protective orders may be filed by a cohabitant in danger of domestic violence even if there aren’t any charges pending. This is called an ex parte order. These orders are issued by the Court without notice to the defendant and without the defendant first appearing in Court.
Ex-parte Orders call for a variety of different restrictions, including the following:
- Prohibiting the defendant from contacting the petitioner
- Ordering the defendant to stay away from the petitioner’s residence, school, or work place
- Prohibiting the defendant from possessing a firearm
- Appointing a guardian ad litem to represent the interests of any children
- Granting temporary custody of the children to the petitioner
- Permitting the petitioner the use of vehicles or other personal property
It is a crime in Utah to violate any provisions of a protective order or ex-parte order.
Punishment for Violating Protective Orders
In Utah, contacting a victim before being released on a domestic violence arrest is a class B misdemeanor. Punishment may be up to six months in jail and a fine up to $1,000.
Defendants who have been convicted of domestic violence within five years of a new crime face increasingly severe penalties for both jail time and fines.