In Utah, the crime of assault (causing, threatening, or attempting to cause injury to another person) is punished as a felony when it is:
- likely to cause death or serious bodily injury
- committed by a prisoner, or
- a defendant’s second or subsequent conviction for assault against a law enforcement officer or military personnel.
That the victim caused serious bodily injury to another person is not a defense to a charge of assault. (Utah Code § 76-5-102.)
For more information on misdemeanor assault crimes, see Utah Assault Laws. Assault with a dangerous weapon is also a felony in Utah. For more information on this crime, see Assault With a Dangerous Weapon in Utah.
Serious Bodily Injury
Under Utah’s laws, any crime of assault that is likely to cause death or serious bodily injury is treated as a felony called aggravated assault. Serious bodily injury creates a substantial risk of death or causes permanent disfigurement or lasting impairment.
(Utah Code §§ 76-1-601, 76-5-103.)
Cutting off someone’s ear or shooting someone in the chest would probably be considered aggravated assault.
Assaults by Prisoners
Any assault by a prisoner, even one that causes mere bodily injury, is a felony in Utah. Under Utah’s laws, prisoners include people in jail or other detention facilities including juvenile facilities and arrestees, whether the confinement is legal or not. An assault that causes serious bodily injury by a prisoner (aggravated assault by a prisoner) is also punished severely.
Throwing or Spitting Bodily Fluids
Specific kinds of assaults against Utah correctional and law enforcement officers can be charged and punished as felonies. Such charges arise when a prisoner or a person arrested or stopped on suspicion of having committed a crime throws or spits blood, urine, feces, or saliva infected with HIV, hepatitis B, or hepatitis C at any at any correctional or law enforcement officer.
In order for the crime of spitting infected saliva to be punished as a felony, the prisoner must be aware of the infection.
(Utah Code §§ 76-5-101, 76-5-102.5, 76-5-102.6, 76-5-103.5.)
Repeated Assaults Against Law Enforcement and Military Personnel
If the defendant has previously been convicted of assault against a law enforcement officer or military personnel, it is a felony to assault a:
- law enforcement officer
- uniformed member of the military, or
- member of the National Guard in active service.
Law enforcement officers include university and school police, district attorneys and attorneys general, sheriffs, park rangers, airport and transit police, and other public employees who prevent and detect crime.
In order for the increased punishment to apply, the victim must be acting in the scope of the victim’s official duties, and the defendant must be aware that the victim is a law enforcement officer or military personnel.
Lawmakers expressly stated in the prohibition against assaults on law enforcement officers and military personnel that the law is not intended to limit any individual’s constitutional rights to free speech and assembly.
(Utah Code § 53-13-103, 76-5-102.4.)
Punishments for Felony Assaults
If no other law applies, an aggravated assault by a prisoner that intentionally causes serious bodily is a first degree felony in Utah, punishable by a prison term of five years to life imprisonment and a fine of up to $10,000.
An aggravated assault by a prisoner in which no serious bodily injury was intentionally caused is a second degree felony, punishable by one to 15 years’ imprisonment and a fine of up to $10,000. Other aggravated assaults are also second degree felonies.
The following crimes are third degree felonies, punishable by a prison term or up to five years and a fine of up to $5,000:
- an assault by a prisoner causing mere bodily injury
- throwing blood, urine, feces, or infected saliva at a correctional or law enforcement officer, and
- second and subsequent assaults against law enforcement or military personnel.
(Utah Code §§ 76-5-102.4, 76-5-102.5, 76-5-103, 76-5-103.5, 76-3-203, 76-3-301.)
Additionally, defendants convicted of repeated assaults against law enforcement officers and military personnel must serve a minimum jail term of 90 days for a second offense, and 180 days for each subsequent offense. The court can suspend the minimum sentence only after finding (declaring in court, "on the record" or in writing) that doing so is in the best interest of justice. (Utah Code § 76-5-102.4.)
Obtaining Legal Advice and Counsel
A conviction for felony assault can have very serious consequences, including a prison term, a fine, and a criminal record. If you are charged with a felony assault crime, you should contact a Utah criminal defense attorney immediately. An attorney should be able to tell you how your case is likely to be treated given the judge and prosecutor who are assigned to your case and the facts. An attorney can help you navigate the criminal justice system and make the strongest arguments on your behalf so that you can achieve the best outcome possible in your case.