Utah Domestic Violence Laws

In Utah, a person commits domestic violence by committing (or attempting to commit) any crime involving violence, physical harm, or the threat of violence or physical harm against a cohabitant.

Cohabitants include spouses; former spouses; people in relationships that resemble marriage; people who live together or have lived together; people who are related by blood or marriage; and people who have children together.

Cohabitants must be over the age of 16 or emancipated minors. Siblings under the age of 18 and parents and their children are not cohabitants of one another.

(Utah Code § § 77-36-1, 78B-7-102.)

Any violent crime, such as harassment, stalking, violating a restraining order, or assault, is domestic violence if committed by one cohabitant against another.

People who are convicted of crimes of domestic violence in Utah more than once are subject to increased punishment for subsequent offenses.

(Utah Code § § 77-36-1, 77-36-1.1.)

For more information on assault crimes, see Utah Assault Laws and Utah Felony Assault Laws.

Arrests for Domestic Violence

Under Utah’s laws, if a police officer has probable cause to believe (a reasonable belief) that domestic violence has occurred, the officer must make an arrest without a warrant or issue a citation (ticket).

This is an exception to the usual rule that an officer can make a warrantless arrest only under certain conditions--when a misdemeanor has been committed in his presence, or he has reason to believe a felony has occurred and the arrest is outside the home.

If the officer has probable cause to believe the victim will continue to be in danger or that the defendant has recently caused serious injury or used a dangerous weapon, the officer must make an arrest and take the defendant into custody.

People who are arrested for domestic violence may not personally contact the victim before being released and may not be released from jail before the next court day unless they are ordered as a condition of their release not to:

  • personally contact the victim
  • harass the victim, or
  • go to the victim’s residence.

Contacting the victim before being released or in violation of a court’s order is a crime.

People who are arrested for domestic violence may also be subject to electronic monitoring.

(Utah Code § § 77-36-2.2, 77-36-2.5.)

Protective Orders

A protective order (also called a restraining order) is a court order requiring one person (the respondent or defendant) to not contact and stay away from another person (the petitioner or victim).

In Utah, it is usually a crime to violate a restraining order. (Utah Code § 76-5-108.)

Pre-trial protective orders

Whenever a defendant is charged with domestic violence, the court may issue a pre-trial protective order:

  • prohibiting the defendant from committing or threatening acts of domestic violence
  • prohibiting the defendant from contacting or communicating with the victim
  • excluding the respondent from petitioner’s residence, school, or workplace, or any other place, and
  • granting any other relief necessary for the safety and welfare of petitioner or another person.

The order remains in effect until the defendant’s trial. It is a crime to violate a pre-trial protective order.

(Utah Code § 77-36-2.7.)

Ex parte orders

Even if no charges are pending, any cohabitant who has been the victim of or is in danger of domestic violence or abuse (physical harm) may also file a petition for a protective order in Utah.

An “ex parte” order is one made without notice to the defendant and without the defendant first appearing in court. Under Utah’s laws, if a court finds that there is a danger of domestic violence or abuse, it may issue an ex parte order:

  • prohibiting the respondent from committing domestic violence or abuse
  • prohibiting the respondent from contacting the petitioner
  • excluding the respondent from petitioner’s residence, school, or workplace, or any other place
  • prohibiting the respondent from possessing a weapon
  • permitting the petitioner to use a vehicle or other personal property
  • granting the petitioner temporary custody of any children
  • appointing a guardian ad litem to represent the interests of any children, and
  • granting any other relief necessary for the safety and welfare of petitioner or another person.

An ex parte order may be in effect for up to 20 days before a hearing is held. If the court finds that there is a good reason to delay the hearing, the order may be in effect for up to 180 days.

(Utah Code § § 78B-7-102, 78B-7-103, 78B-7-106, 78B-7-107.)

After a hearing

To obtain a court order that is in effect for a longer period of time, the petitioner must have the respondent served (given a copy). Then, there is a hearing, where both the petitioner and the respondent may appear.

Following a hearing, the court may also issue an order granting custody and visitation of any children, as well as any relief that can be granted as part of an ex parte order.

Generally, the criminal provisions (see below) of a protective order are in effect for two years. After that time, a hearing can be held to dismiss the order.

(Utah Code § § 78B-7-103, 78B-7-106, 78B-7-115.)

Criminal and civil provisions

Under Utah’s laws, a person who violates almost any provision of a protective order issued ex parte or after a hearing commits a crime.

The only exceptions are those provisions related to custody or other relief necessary for the safety and welfare of the petitioner or another person. A person who violates these provisions can be punished only with civil contempt. Contempt (violating a court’s order) is punishable by a fine and time in jail.

(Utah Code § 78B-7-106.)

Punishment

Contacting a victim before being released on a domestic violence arrest is a class B misdemeanor, punishable by up to six months in jail and a fine of up to $1,000.

If the defendant was originally arrested for a felony, violating a judge’s order to not contact a victim or a pre-trial protective order is a third degree felony, punishable by a prison term of up to five years and a fine of up to $5,000.

If the defendant was originally arrested for a misdemeanor, violating a judge’s order or a pre-trial protective order is a class A misdemeanor, punishable by up to one year in jail and a fine of up to $2,500.

Violating the criminal provisions of a protective order is also class A misdemeanor.

Subsequent convictions are punished more severely (see below).

Prior convictions

When a person who has been convicted of a domestic violence offense within the past five years is convicted of another domestic violence crime, including violating a restraining order, if the current offense is:

  • a class C misdemeanor, then it is punishable as a class B misdemeanor by up to six months in jail and a fine of up to $1,000
  • a class B misdemeanor, then it is punishable as a class A misdemeanor by up to one year in jail and a fine of up to $2,500, or
  • a class A misdemeanor, then it is punishable as a third degree felony, punishable by a prison term of up to five years and a fine of up to $5,000.

(Utah Code § § 76-3-203, 76-3-204, 76-3-301, 76-5-108, 77-36-1.1, 77-36-2.5, 77-36-2.7, 78B-7-106.)

Obtaining Legal Assistance

A restraining order or conviction for domestic violence can have serious consequences. If you are charged with domestic violence or served with a restraining order, you should contact a Utah criminal defense attorney immediately. An attorney can tell you what to expect in court and advocate on your behalf so that you can obtain the best possible outcome.

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