Domestic and Family Violence
Domestic Violence in Salt Lake City
Domestic violence charges are treated seriously in Utah, whether the act is committed against a current spouse, former spouse, significant other, family member, or co-habitant. The area covers a wide range of cases, from child endangerment to stalking. Any conviction of domestic violence can have serious repercussions aside from confinement and fines, including an effect on future employment, housing options, or gun ownership.
Common charges for domestic violence and related offenses include:
Domestic violence charges are not always straight forward, and can sometimes be rather complicated. In some cases, false or exaggerated allegations of domestic violence have been brought against spouses at previous times: during child custody battles, divorce disputes, or before the Department of Child and Family Services or the police. In many cases, there are extenuating factors that can be used to build a defense. No matter how simple or complex, a knowledgeable criminal defense attorney will know how to investigate the facts and apply the law in building a defense.
Salt Lake City Domestic Violence Attorney
Darren Levitt of the Salt Lake City based Levitt Legal, PLLC, represents spouses, parents, and partners in cases of domestic violence. Regardless of the severity of charges his clients face, he gives each client the highest level of attention and dedication. Darren understands that every case is different, especially in domestic violence cases where there are many factors to consider. These factors can be used to aggressively pursue dismissed or reduced charges.
Contact Levitt Legal to discuss any allegation of domestic violence. Hiring an attorney early in the case can often lead to the best result because the attorney can present mitigating or exculpatory information to the prosecutor before formal charges are filed. Call (801) 455-1743 to speak with Darren Levitt today.
Domestic Violence Information Center
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False or Exaggerated Domestic Violence Charges
Unlike many other types of criminal charges, allegations of domestic violence often lead to or arise from false or exaggerated allegations. Years ago, the victims of domestic violence were often left with nowhere to turn. Today, the pendulum has swung the other way and the alleged victims of domestic violence often receive immediate attention, temporary housing, free legal services, financial compensation, and other services that are unavailable to other types of crime victims.
Although most allegations of domestic violence are leveled against men, the number of women arrested on these charges is increasing. In either case, these unhealthy relationships are often based on power and control. Oftentimes the primary aggressor will make a false allegation of domestic violence in order to control or punish the other party or gain advantage in a divorce or child custody proceeding.
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Mistakes in Making Arrests
Law enforcement officers that respond to the scene rarely get the full story from both of the parties and all the witnesses. The police are often left to confront contradictory statements, and they then sometimes jump to conclusion about the true version of events. In many of these cases, no physical evidence of any injury is present. The officers rarely know much if anything about the past difficulties of the parties.
In many cases, drugs or alcohol makes the statements from witnesses and suspects less than reliable. Under the difficult circumstances, the police must make an arrest. Sometimes they will even tell the suspects that since the police were called, "Someone is going to jail." Sometimes the police make a mistake, but that mistake still has unfortunate consequences for the person arrested.
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Common Domestic Violence Charges in Salt Lake City
As used in Utah's domestic violence statutes, the term "domestic violence" is broadly defined as any criminal offense involving physical harm or a threat of violence when committed by one cohabitant against another. The term "domestic violence" also means any attempt to commit or any commission of the following crimes by one cohabitant against another.
Note: While there aren't any specific charges for domestic violence in Utah, these crimes are prosecuted under the related charges. They are only considered domestic violence when they involve a former or current spouse, partner, child, or other family member. The following are crimes under Utah Criminal Code 76-5:
- Assault (Utah Criminal Code 76-5-102.) – This crime is charged against individuals who succeed or attempt to do bodily harm to another individual. It also includes threats of physical violence and situations that put another individual at risk of sustaining injury. This is a Class B misdemeanor, but is escalated to a Class A misdemeanor if there was substantial injury or if the injured party was pregnant.
- Aggravated Assault (Utah Criminal Code 76-5-103.) – This criminal offense refers to individuals committing an act of assault with a dangerous weapon or other type of force that can cause death or serious bodily injury. This is a 3rd degree felony, but is escalated to a 2nd degree if serious bodily injury resulted.
- Harassment (Utah Criminal Code 76-5-106.) – It is a Class B misdemeanor to frighten or harass another person through written or recorded communication.
- Stalking (Utah Criminal Code 76-5-106.5.) – Stalking charges range from a Class A misdemeanor up through a 3rd degree felony and as high as a 2nd degree felony offense. Stalking can be alleged if the accused approaches an individual, confronts them at their workplace or place of residence, contacts friends or family of the individual, communicates with the individual over electronic media, or other acts that cause emotional stress in another individual.
- Threat of Violence (Utah Criminal Code 76-5-107.) – Even the threat of violence can lead to a Class B misdemeanor, regardless of whether or not the accused was capable of actually carrying out the threat.
- Violation of a Protective Restraining Order (Utah Criminal Code 76-5-108.) – It is a criminal offense to violate a protective order, child protective order, ex parte protective order, or ex parte child protective order.
- Child Abuse/Abandonment (Utah Criminal Code 76-5-109.) – Individuals are charge with this crime when it is alleged that they intentionally failed to make reasonable arrangements for the care and safety of their child. This includes providing the child with food, shelter, and clothing. Child abuse also refers to acts of physical violence to a child, minor or serious acts. This is a Class C misdemeanor offense, but can be escalated to Class B or Class A offense depending on the severity of the alleged misconduct.
- Domestic Violence in the Presence of a Child (Utah Criminal Code 76-5-109.1.) – In Utah, it can be a Class B or A misdemeanor, or 3rd degree felony, to commit acts of domestic violence while a child is present.
- Endangerment of a Child or Vulnerable Adult (Utah Criminal Code 76-5-112.5.) – Exposing a child or vulnerable adult to the dangers of chemicals or controlled substances is a felony offense.
- Child Kidnapping (Utah Criminal Code 76-5-301.1.) – Kidnapping a child, regardless of the circumstances, is charged as a first degree felony.
- Kidnapping (Utah Criminal Code 76-5-301.) – Kidnapping another individual, holding them for long periods of time, placing them in servitude, moving them across state lines, or otherwise going against the will of a victim is a 2nd degree felony offense.
Other related charges include:
- Criminal homicide, as described in Section 76-5-201
- Aggravated kidnapping, as described in Section 76-5-302
- Mayhem, as described in Section 76-5-105;
- Sexual offenses, as described in Title 76, Chapter 5, Part 4, Sexual Offenses, and Title 76, Chapter 5a, Sexual Exploitation of Children;
- Unlawful detention, as described in Section 76-5-304;
- Possession of a deadly weapon with intent to assault, as described in Section 76-10-507;
- Discharge of a firearm from a vehicle, near a highway, or in the direction of any person, building, or vehicle, as described in Section 76-10-508;
- Disorderly conduct, as defined in Section 76-9-102, if a conviction of disorderly conduct is the result of a plea agreement in which the defendant was originally charged with any of the domestic violence offenses otherwise described in subsection of this section. Conviction of disorderly conduct as a domestic violence offense, in the manner described in subsection (4)(o), does not constitute a misdemeanor crime of domestic violence under federal law (18 U.S.C. Section 921), and is exempt from the provisions of the federal Firearms Act, (18 U.S.C. Section 921 et seq.
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What if the Alleged Victim Does Not Want to Prosecute?
It is a common misconception that the victim of a crime, domestic violence included, has the power to "press charges" or "drop charges" against the defendant. It is the responsibility of the District Attorney's Office to prosecute crimes for the state. It is also the decision of the prosecutor to press or drop (with the judge's approval) charges. While the wishes of the victim are considered, the final judgment about how or if to pursue the case is made by the city or county District Attorney's Office.
Domestic violence victims who wish to voice their opinion about whether or not to pursue prosecution should contact the deputy district attorney assigned to their case. The deputy district attorney can make arrangements for a meeting involving the prosecutor and an investigator.
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Defenses to Domestic Violence Charges
Domestic violence cases are not always straight forward. Aside from cases of false or exaggerated charges, there are other avenues for the accused to pursue. Under Utah Criminal Code 76-5-305 defenses to domestic violence charges can include:
- Necessity - The conduct was necessary to protect another individual from imminent bodily injury or death
- Lawfulness - The detention or restraint was authorized by law
- Consent - If the alleged victim is a minor or mentally incompetent and the accused was under the reasonable belief that the victim's custodian would have consented to the conduct if present.
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Individuals who have reason to believe that a vulnerable adult has been the victim of abuse, neglect, or exploitation are required to notify a law enforcement agency or Adult Protective Services office. If the report is made in good faith, then the individual has immunity from civil and criminal liability with the report.
Intentional failure to report these incidents can lead to a Class B misdemeanor. Threatening the person who made the report or the object of the report is also a Class B misdemeanor. These charges are made pursuant to Utah Criminal Code 76-5-111.1.
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Voluntary and Mandatory HIV Testing
Individuals who are found guilty or enter a plea of guilty, no contest, guilty and mentally ill, or guilty by reason of insanity to a sexual offense are required to submit to mandatory HIV testing within 4 months of conviction. The convicted individual is responsible for the costs associated with the testing unless indigent. Victims of sexual crimes may request HIV testing under Utah Criminal Code 76-5-503. This is paid for by the Crime Victim Reparations Fund.
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Utah Domestic Violence Resources
Salt Lake City's Domestic Violence Victim Advocate Program - Program designed to address the needs of the alleged victims of domestic violence and other violent crimes. Services are free and include assisting the alleged victims with obtaining court documents, information on police procedures, referral services for victim's rights, counseling centers, monetary support agencies, translation, and support groups. Assistance is provided for protective orders in domestic violence cases.
Legal Aid Society of Salt Lake - Non-profit organization that advocates for the stability and safety of low income families and the alleged victims of domestic violence through legal assistance and advocacy particularly for protective orders and stalking injunctions in Salt Lake City, Utah.
Utah Office of Crime Victim Reparations - Provides financial compensation for victims of domestic violence crimes from the Victim of Crime Act Compensation, Violence Against Women grants, and Assistance grants. The office also provides a network of services for the alleged victims of domestic violence across the state of Utah including enhanced training, and staff support to the Utah Council on Victims of Crime.
Utah Office of Crime Victim Reparations
Salt Lake City, Utah 84111
Utah Domestic Violence Council - The UDVC is recognized as Utah's domestic violence coalition, which includes 22 local domestic violence chapters. The UDVC is funded almost entirely by federal grant money including a Violence Against Women Act (VAWA) grant and a federal Family Violence Prevention and Services Act (FVPSA) state coalition grant.
YWCA Salt Lake City - Women in Jeopardy Program – The YWCA's Women in Jeopardy Program (WIJ) was created in 1976 and was Utah's first domestic violence shelter. The mission of the WIJ is to provide a safe environment, housing, and counseling for women and children fleeing situations of domestic violence.
YWCA Salt Lake City
322 East 300 South
Salt Lake City, UT 84111
Utah's Cohabitant Abuse Act: Title 77, Chapter 36 - The Cohabitant Abuse Act contains definitions, enhancements for offenders with a prior domestic violence conviction, the duty of law enforcement officers to provide notice to the victims of domestic violence, the duty of law enforcement officers to arrest and report domestic violence allegations, the conditions of releases after a domestic violence arrest, pre-trial protective orders, mandatory arrest provisions for violation of protective order violations. Find additional information on Utah's domestic violence definitions, the definition of stalking, the Mandatory Reporting Act for Vulnerable Adults, the Healthcare Provider Reporting Act, and the Utah Commission
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Levitt Legal, PLLC | Salt Lake City Domestic Violence Lawyer
If you have been charged with any domestic violence related offense in Utah, it's important to immediately consider your legal options. Just because you have been arrested for the charge does not mean you are guilty. Darren Levitt is a Salt Lake City domestic violence lawyer who is dedicated to helping you protect your future. Call (801) 455-1743 for a free consultation or send an online message to discuss your case and favorable paths to pursue.