How Serious Is an Assault Charge in Utah?

Assault is a serious offense in Utah. Whether you have been accused of simple or aggravated assault, you are facing jail or prison time and/or fines. Additionally, depending on who the offense was committed against, you could be sentenced to a minimum term of incarceration.

Generally, simple assault is a class B misdemeanor. At this level, penalties include up to 6 months of jail time and/or up to $1,000 in fines.

However, under the following circumstances, simple assault is a class A misdemeanor:

  • You caused substantial bodily injury,
  • You knew the alleged victim was pregnant,
  • The alleged victim was an on-duty:
    • Public or private school employee
    • Peace officer
    • Military service member, or
    • Health care provider or emergency medical service worker

When charged as a class A misdemeanor, simple assault is punishable by a maximum of 364 days in jail and a fine not to exceed $2,500.

In Utah, assault becomes a felony when aggravating factors are present – the offense is then referred to as aggravated assault. The offense can be charged as a third-degree felony. A conviction can result in up to 5 years of imprisonment and/or up to $5,000 in fines.

However, if aggravated assault resulted in serious bodily injury, caused loss of consciousness, or was committed against a peace officer or military service member, it is a second-degree felony. Conviction penalties include not more than 15 years of imprisonment and/or a maximum of $10,000 in fines.

Note that if you commit aggravated assault against a peace officer or military member, you may face a mandatory minimum term of incarceration. A second offense will result in at least 90 days of jail or prison time. And every violation after that comes with a minimum of 180 consecutive days behind bars.

Incarceration and/or fines are not the only sanctions you can face for an assault conviction. You will have a mark on your criminal record. Regardless of whether you were found guilty of a misdemeanor or felony, that blemish can substantially impact your life. Any person can access your criminal history. Thus, important decisions concerning your future may be influenced by a mistake you made in the past. For instance, an employer might decide not to hire you, or a potential landlord may reject your application because you were convicted of assault.

What Is Considered Assault in Utah?

We have covered the possible penalties and long-term impacts of assault. Still, it is also necessary to discuss the elements of the offense.

As noted before, Utah separates assault into simple and aggravated. Both are committed when someone uses unlawful force or violence against another person. However, they are distinct in the severity of the acts involved.

Under Utah Code § 76-5-102, simple assault occurs when someone attempts to harm another person or engages in conduct that puts another person at substantial risk of bodily injury.

Utah Code § 76-5-103 defines aggravated assault as:

  • Attempting to bodily injure someone,
  • Threatening, with a show of force or violence, to cause bodily injury to someone, or
  • Engaging in conduct that puts someone at substantial risk of serious bodily injury.

Additionally, the offense involves:

  • Using a dangerous weapon,
  • Impeding the alleged victim's blood or breath circulation, or
  • Committing any other act that would put someone in danger of death or serious bodily injury.

What Defenses to Assault Are Available?

We mentioned earlier in this blog that assault is a serious crime in Utah. Still, that does not mean all hope is lost in these types of cases. Depending on your situation, various defenses can be raised to fight your charge.

One way to challenge assault accusations is by showing that the use or attempted use of force against the other person was justified. In other words, the person accused of the crime was acting in self-defense.

Utah Code § 76-2-402 states that a person is justified in using force against someone else when they reasonably believed that they or another individual were in danger of being subject to immediate and unlawful force. Their actions may also be justified if they used force that did or could have caused serious injury or death, but they did so to prevent themselves or another individual from suffering serious injury or death or to prevent a forcible felony.

The self-defense argument cannot be raised if:

  • The actor provoked the other individual;
  • The actor committed, attempted to commit, or was fleeing after committing a felony; or
  • The actor and the other person were in a fight they both agreed to.

A judge or jury will consider the totality of the circumstances to determine whether a person's use of force was justified.

Contact a Criminal Defense Attorney

If you have been accused of assault or aggravated assault in or around Salt Lake City, your case is not hopeless. A criminal defense lawyer can evaluate the matter, analyze the evidence, and determine what defenses can be raised on your behalf.

At Lokken & Putnam, P.C., we are here to stand beside you and deliver the legal representation you need. Schedule a consultation by calling us at (801) 829-9783 or submitting an online contact form today.