Source : sb-legal.net
By : Joshua Baron
Category : Matthews Bark Attorney
Posted By : Contact the Attorney General
1. “Domestic violence” covers tons of things that don’t sound like domestic violence
One of the most common complaints from our clients in domestic violence cases is “I wasn’t being violent and this wasn’t a domestic case.” Unfortunately, Utah’s domestic violence law is very broad and covers things that don’t normally sound like domestic violence.
For example, if you are recklessly running through your university dorm room and break your roommate’s Xbox controller, you could be charged with domestic violence related criminal mischief (vandalism). When I was a prosecutor, I saw domestic violence charges for silly cases like that.
In Utah, a crime is “domestic violence related” if it is either (1) a violent crime or (2) a crime found on a list in the Utah Code that is committed against a cohabitant. A cohabitant is anyone who is related to you by blood or marriage or who lives or has lived with you. There are some exceptions for children who are covered by the child abuse law instead of the domestic violence law.
The legislature assumes that prosecutors will use common sense when filing domestic violence charges, but many prosecutors file everything that qualifies under the domestic violence law no matter how silly.
2. Domestic violence charges can follow you around for the rest of your life
Domestic violence crimes can affect your ability to own or possess a gun for the rest of your life. Under Utah and federal law, people who are convicted for domestic violence charges are not allowed to possess weapons. The penalties for being a restricted person in possession of a weapon are severe and can land you in jail or prison for a long time.
Domestic violence charges are also enhanceable. That means that if you are charged with a domestic violence crime in the future, the penalty could be much worse because of a previous domestic violence conviction.
3. The “victim” does not have to press charges against you.
Another common complaint our clients make is that the person they supposedly committed the domestic violence against does not want to press charges. Technically, the alleged victim in a criminal case does not press charges. The charges are brought by a prosecutor on behalf of the people of the State of Utah. Many prosecutors ignore the wishes of the supposed victim and aggressively prosecute people for domestic violence even when the victim does not want the case to go forward.
In some cases there are rules like the spousal privilege that make it difficult for the prosecutor to go forward with the case. But many prosecutors hate those rules and will do everything they can to get around them.