4 Questions You May Have About Domestic Violence Charges in Utah

In Utah, the Cohabitant Abuse Procedures Act defines the laws around domestic violence. The long list of definitions, enforcement rules, and punishments this law outlines can be a lot to take in. To make things a little easier, we pulled some of the main points and simplified them below.

If you have more detailed questions about domestic violence laws in Utah, we encourage you to visit the Utah code website or reach out to one of our experienced defense attorneys.

1. What qualifies as domestic violence?

In Utah, many crimes can be classified as domestic violence as long as the crime is committed against a cohabitant.


The term cohabitant has a broad definition according to the law, but it’s basically anyone who is 16 years of age or older who currently has, or has had, a personal relationship with the other party. This could be a family member, consensual sexual partner, or even a roommate. They do not need to currently live under the same roof. Also, the term "cohabitant" does not apply to relationships there one party is a minor.

Domestic Violence

Domestic violence is a criminal offense involving violence or physical harm or threat or attempt to commit violence or physical harm by one cohabitant against another.

2. How are domestic violence crimes classified?

Potentially any crime committed against a cohabitant can be charged as domestic violence. Here are a few examples of crimes that may be committed against a cohabitant and how they are classified:

Harassment: Class B Misdemeanor

Harassement is the intent to frighten or harass another by communicating a written or recorded threat to commit any violent felony.

Mayhem: Second Degree Felony

This is defined as unlawfully and intentionally depriving a human being of a member of his body, or disabling or rendering it useless, including such things as putting out an eye or slitting the nose, ear, or lip.

Cruelty to an Animal with Intent to Harass/Threaten: Class B Misdemeanor

Cruelty to an animal includes, but is not limited to, failing to provide necessary care, abandoning, or injuring an animal. The class B misdemeanor is given to a person who does any of these intentionally. However, additional penalties, including felonies, may be given under other circumstances (i.e., torturing a companion animal: third degree felony).

Violation of a Protective Order: Class A Misdemeanor (minimum)

This violation is when someone who is restricted by a protective (restraining) order violates the terms of that order. A class A misdemeanor is not the most severe penalty for this type of crime. Again, this is not a full list. See the Utah code website for more details.

3. What are the penalties for domestic violence in Utah?

As shown above, there are many classifications for domestic violence crimes. Below are the general punishments for the classification examples. A judge will determine the extent of the punishment within the bounds listed.

Class B misdemeanor in Utah:

Imprisonment for a term of no more than six months and a fine of no more than $1,000.

Class A misdemeanor in Utah:

Imprisonment for a term of no more than one year and a fine of no more than $2,500.

Third-degree felony in Utah:

Imprisonment for a term of no more than five years and a fine of no more than $5,000.

Penalty Enhancements for Subsequent Offenses

If you have been convicted of domestic violence in the past ten years (or criminal mischief* in the last five years), you may be subject to a penalty enhancement. For example, if you have a domestic violence conviction from seven years ago, but you are charged with another domestic violence charge that would be a class C misdemeanor, your charge will automatically be increased to a class B misdemeanor. According to Utah code 76-36-1.1, the following penalty enhancements are in effect for subsequent domestic violence offenses.

Class C Misdemeanor - increased to - Class B Misdemeanor

Class B Misdemeanor - increased to - Class A Misdemeanor

Class A Misdemeanor - increased to - Third-degree Felony

*Criminal mischief means to damage or destroy property (or attempt to do so) by one cohabitant against another. (This is a simplified definition. For the full explanation, see Section 76-6-106.)

4. Do I need a lawyer to represent my domestic violence case?

Defending yourself against domestic violence charges in Utah can be complicated. However, if you have been charged with a domestic violence offense, the experienced criminal defense lawyers at Brown, Bradshaw & Moffat will help you determine the best course of action for your case.

Our defense team has successfully handled domestic violence cases in Utah for decades, and we help clients charged with both misdemeanors and felonies in Salt Lake County and many other counties throughout Utah.

Contact us at (801) 532-5297 if you have questions about domestic violence charges or if you are ready to talk about the best way to defend your case.

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