Utah Misdemeanor and Felony Assault Laws

By , Attorney (UC Berkeley School of Law)

In Utah, a person commits the crime of assault by causing, threatening, or attempting to cause injury to another person.

Assaults that cause serious injuries, assaults committed with dangerous weapons, assaults by prisoners, and second and subsequent assaults against law enforcement officers and military personnel are felony assaults.

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

  • an act that causes bodily injury 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. That the victim caused serious bodily injury to another person is not a defense to a charge of assault.

(Utah Code § 76-5-102.)

Under Utah's laws, bodily injury is defined as physical pain, illness, or impairment. (Utah Code § 76-1-601.) Cuts or bruises are usually considered bodily injury.

Substantial Bodily Injury

Assaults that cause substantial bodily injury are punished more severely in Utah. Substantial bodily injury creates or causes lasting physical pain, temporary disfigurement, or temporary loss or impairment of any body part. (Utah Code § 76-1-601.) Cutting someone's face with a knife and kicking someone in the head are the kinds of injuries that might be considered substantial bodily injury.

Assaults Against Protected Victims

In Utah, assaults against certain victims are punished by longer jail terms.

Assaults against pregnant women (if the defendant knows of the pregnancy) are punished more severely. (Utah Code § 76-5-102.)

Utah's laws also punish more severely assaults against certain public officials and employees, including:

  • law enforcement officers (including 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)
  • uniformed members of the military
  • members of the National Guard in active service
  • public or private school employees and volunteers, and
  • health care providers, including emergency medical service personnel such as paramedics who are providing emergency medical services.

In order for the increased punishment to apply, the victim must be acting in the scope of the victim's official duties or employment, and the defendant must be aware that the victim is an official or employee.

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, 76-5-102.3, 76-5-102.4, 76-5-102.7.)

It is also a crime to throw things at a correctional or law enforcement officer in Utah. This crime is committed when:

  • a prisoner (a person in jail or another detention facility, including a juvenile facility), or
  • a person detained or arrested on suspicion of having committed a crime
  • throws any object or substance
  • at any correctional officer or law enforcement officer.

(Utah Code § § 76-5-101, 76-5-102.6.)

Hate Crimes

In Utah, hate crimes are criminal activities, including misdemeanor assault, committed with the intent to intimidate or terrorize the victim in order to infringe on or resulting in an infringement on the victim's civil rights. These crimes are punished more severely than non-hate crime assaults. In the prohibition against hate crimes, lawmakers made clear that the law is not intended to limit any individual's right to free speech or any other Constitutional rights.

(Utah Code § 76-3-203.3.)

Punishment for Misdemeanor Assault

The following assaults are Class A misdemeanors in Utah:

  • assaults that cause substantial bodily injury
  • assaults against pregnant women
  • assaults against protected officials and employees
  • throwing things at a correctional or law enforcement officer, and
  • hate crimes.

Class A misdemeanors are punishable by up to one year in jail and a fine of up to $2,500.

(Utah Code § § 76-3-203.3, 76-3-204, 76-3-301, 76-5-102, 76-5-102.3, 76-5-102.4, 76-5-102.6, 76-5-102.7.)

Other assaults are class B misdemeanors, punishable by up to six months in jail and a fine of up to $1,000.

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

Getting Legal Advice and Representation

A conviction for misdemeanor assault could result in jail time, a criminal record, and a fine. If you are charged with assault, you should contact a Utah criminal defense attorney who 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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