In Utah, some domestic violence offenses can be felonies, while others can be misdemeanors. The level of charge depends on several factors. Primarily, it is tied to the underlying crime. However, if the alleged offender has previous domestic violence convictions, the level of charge can increase from a misdemeanor to a felony.
This blog will examine how the Utah Code defines domestic violence and how the level of charge is determined.
What Is Domestic Violence in Utah?
Under Utah Code § 77-36-1, domestic violence involves causing or threatening to commit violence against or cause harm to a cohabitant. The word "cohabitant" describes specific relationships between people, mainly those involving family or household members.
Specifically defined under Utah Code § 78B-7-102, cohabitants include:
- Former spouses
- Relatives by blood or marriage
- People with a child in common
- Biological parents of an unborn child
- Current or former household members (those who reside or previously resided together)
- People currently or formerly in a consensual sexual relationship with one another
Utah Code § 77-36-1 further provides that domestic violence includes the commission or attempted commission of crimes outlined in the State's statutes. In other words, domestic violence is not its own offense. Rather, a crime such as assault is designated domestic violence when it is committed against a cohabitant.
Offenses that can be charged as domestic violence include:
- Aggravated Assault
- Aggravated cruelty to animals
- Criminal homicide
- Electronic communication harassment
- Kidnapping, child kidnapping, or aggravated kidnapping
- Sex crimes
- Unlawful detention or unlawful detention of a minor
- Violation of a protective order
- Offenses against property
- Possession of a deadly weapon with criminal intent
- Discharge of a firearm from a vehicle
- Disorderly conduct
- Child abuse
- Threatening use of a dangerous weapon
- Threatening violence
- Tampering with a witness
- Retaliation against a witness or victim
- Unlawful distribution of an intimate image
- Sexual battery
- Damage or interruption of a communication device
When Is Domestic Violence a Felony in Utah?
Domestic violence can be a felony when the offense committed against a cohabitant is designated at that level in the Utah Code.
Take mayhem, for example. The offense occurs when a person severs or disables another's body part or cuts their tongue, eye, nose, ear, or lip. Mayhem is a second-degree felony, punishable by a maximum of 15 years of imprisonment and/or a fine not to exceed $10,000.
In contrast, an offense such as assault would be charged as a misdemeanor, even if it is committed against a cohabitant.
Because the level of charge is tied to the underlying offense, various instances exist in which domestic violence is a felony, and various instances exist in which it is a misdemeanor.
Still, there are some circumstances in which a misdemeanor domestic violence offense can be elevated to a third-degree felony. This enhancement can occur when the alleged offender commits either a class A or class B misdemeanor against a cohabitant and has been previously convicted of qualifying domestic violence offenses. The lookback period depends on the crime the individual was convicted of before. For anything other than criminal mischief, the period is 10 years. For a prior criminal mischief offense, the period is 5 years.
What Penalties Are Imposed for Felony Domestic Violence in Utah?
Any person convicted of felony-level domestic violence faces a prison term and fines.
In addition to those penalties, the court may order them:
- Not to contact the victim
- Participate in an electronic monitoring program
- Pay counseling fees the victim incurred
- Attend a domestic violence treatment program
Note that the additional sanctions listed above apply when a person is convicted of a felony or misdemeanor domestic violence offense.