Assault and Aggravated Assault Laws in Utah

The basics of Utah's assault crimes and penalties.

By , Attorney · UC Berkeley School of Law
Updated by Rebecca Pirius, Attorney · Mitchell Hamline School of Law
Updated 6/27/2024

A person facing assault charges in Utah can face jail or prison time. Learn how Utah law defines and punishes assault and aggravated assault crimes.

What Is Considered Assault in Utah?

In Utah, a person commits the crime of assault by causing, threatening, or attempting to cause injury to another person. The law divides these offenses into assault and aggravated assault. Separate charges and penalties apply when a person assaults someone in a protected class, such as a school employee, police officer, or healthcare worker.

Penalties for assault crimes depend primarily on the level or risk of harm to the victim and whether a dangerous weapon was involved. Below are some definitions to aid in distinguishing the different assault charges in Utah.

Bodily injury is defined as physical pain, illness, or impairment. Cuts, bruises, swelling, and scratches are usually considered bodily injuries.

Substantial bodily injury creates or causes lasting physical pain, temporary disfigurement, or temporary loss or impairment of any body parts. Significant and long-lasting bruising and swelling that prevented a victim from opening her eye was considered a substantial bodily injury, as was a cut that continued to bleed for 30 minutes. Sprains, fractures, and burns may also fall under this definition.

Serious bodily injury involves serious and permanent disfigurement, protracted loss of a body part or organ, or injuries creating a substantial risk of death. A victim's broken jaw and torn rotator cuff were considered serious bodily injuries. A beating that left a victim unconscious was also considered serious bodily harm. Serious injuries from gunshot or stab wounds or that damage internal organs are other examples.

Dangerous weapons include firearms, knives, metal knuckles, or any item designed to, or capable of, causing death or serious bodily injury (such as a crowbar, baseball bat, pipe, or brick). Fake weapons also count if the offender leads a victim to believe it's real.

(Utah Code § 76-1-101.5 (2024).)

What Are the Penalties for Assault in Utah?

In Utah, a charge of assault can be based on any of the following:

  • an act that causes or creates a substantial risk of bodily injury
  • an attempt to cause bodily injury, or
  • a threat to cause bodily injury.

The act, attempt, or threat must be committed with or accompanied by unlawful (unjustified) violence or force.

Examples of assault include punching, kicking, shoving, and hair pulling. Attempting any of these acts is also an assault, as is threatening such harm. Raising a clenched fist and walking angrily toward another would be assault.

Penalties. Assault starts as a class B misdemeanor, punishable by up to 6 months of jail time and a $1,000 fine. The penalty increases to a class A misdemeanor if the offender caused substantial bodily harm to the victim or assaulted a pregnant woman (knowing she was pregnant). Class A misdemeanors carry penalties of up to 364 days of jail time and a $2,500 fine.

(Utah Code §§ 76-3-204, 76-3-301, 76-5-102 (2024).)

What Are the Penalties for Aggravated Assault in Utah?

A person can face charges for aggravated assault if the assault involved:

  • the use of a dangerous weapon or vehicle
  • strangulation or suffocation, or
  • any other means or force likely to cause serious bodily injury or death.

Examples. For example, shooting someone with a gun, or attempting or making threats to do so, would be aggravated assault. Trying to run someone down with a vehicle is another example. A defendant who kicked someone in the head and rendered them unconscious was found guilty of aggravated assault.

Penalties. A person convicted of aggravated assault faces penalties for a third-degree felony. However, if the assault results in serious bodily injury or unconsciousness, the penalties increase to a second-degree felony. The maximum sentence for a third-degree felony is 5 years of prison time and a $5,000 fine. For a second-degree felony, a defendant faces one to 15 years in prison, plus up to $10,000 in fines.

(Utah Code §§ 76-3-203, 76-3-301 (2024).)

What Are the Penalties for Assaults Against Protected Victims in Utah?

Assaults against certain victims may be punished by longer jail terms, felony penalties, or mandatory minimum sentences. For these penalties to apply, the defendant must know the victim is working or acting within the scope of their duties.

Assault or Threat of Violence Against a School Employee

Assaulting or threatening a private or public school employee or volunteer carries class A misdemeanor penalties.

(Utah Code § 76-5-102.3 (2024).)

Assault or Threats of Violence Against Healthcare Employees

Assaulting or threatening violence carries class A misdemeanor penalties when the victim is a healthcare provider, emergency medical service worker, or health facility employee. If the offender acts intentionally and causes substantial bodily injuries, the penalty is a third-degree felony.

Examples of healthcare providers and emergency service workers include paramedics, EMTs, behavioral emergency service responders, doctors, nurses, dentists, physical therapists, social workers, and lab techs.

(Utah Code § 76-5-102.7 (2024).)

Assaults Against Police or Military Service Members

Assaulting or threatening law enforcement officers or uniformed service members (including National Guard) carries enhanced penalties. Law enforcement officers include a long list of peace officers, government security officers, government investigators, correctional officers, federal officers, and all other persons with limited or special peace officer authority.

A conviction carries class A misdemeanor penalties. However, it's a third-degree felony for a second conviction or an assault causing substantial bodily injury to an officer or service member. Second-degree felony penalties apply when an offender uses a dangerous weapon or other means of force likely to cause death or serious bodily injuries.

This offense also carries mandatory minimum sentences of 90 consecutive days behind bars for a first offense and 180 consecutive days for each subsequent offense.

(Utah Code § § 53-13-103, 76-5-102.3, 76-5-102.4, 76-5-102.7.)

Assaults Involving Domestic Violence

Assaults committed by or against a cohabitant (spouses, intimate partners, and others) are enhanceable if the defendant is a repeat domestic violence offender. Check out our article on Utah Domestic Violence Laws to learn more.

(Utah Code § 76-36-1.1 (2024).)

Assault Hate Crimes

It's a hate crime for a defendant to assault a victim based on their race, color, national origin, sex, religion, or any other protected constitutional right. If the defendant committed misdemeanor assault, a prosecutor can file additional misdemeanor charges for a hate crime. For felony hate crimes, the sentencing judge can consider a hate crime as an aggravating factor to justify a harsher sentence.

(Utah Code §§ 76-3-203.3, 76-3-203.4 (2024).)

Defenses to Assault Charges in Utah

A person facing assault charges can fight the charges in several ways, including by poking holes in the prosecution's case or by raising an affirmative defense.

Self-defense. A defendant might claim self-defense or defense of others if the alleged victim started the altercation or was about to. A defendant can only use as much force as is reasonably necessary to prevent the threatened injuries. A person can use deadly force only if threatened with a forcible felony or to prevent death or serious bodily harm. (Utah Code § 76-2-402 (2024).)

Wrong person. If the assault happened in a dark alley or bar filled with people, a defendant might argue the cops or victim got the wrong perpetrator. A defendant with a solid alibi might present evidence of being somewhere else when the assault happened.

Reasonable doubt. The defense might also try to poke holes in the prosecution's case by arguing the prosecution failed to prove the required injuries or the use of a weapon. In this case, the defense might be able to get the charges dismissed or reduced.

Getting Legal Advice and Representation

If you face assault or aggravated assault charges, contact a Utah criminal defense attorney. A lawyer can tell you how your case is likely to fare, based on the facts and the local judge and prosecutor who are assigned to your case. An attorney may be able to help you get the charge reduced or dismissed, obtain a not guilty verdict at trial, or a lighter sentence than the maximum allowed by law.

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