The term “domestic violence” can be confusing because it is not limited to physical violence towards a spouse, like many people assume. Many of our clients often do not understand what makes their case fall under domestic violence. The law says that any crime that involves a cohabitant can be charged as domestic violence, as long as that crime has some sort of physical or emotional threat or violence associated with it. So destruction of property, which is called criminal mischief, can be classified as domestic violence, or assault can be classified as domestic violence if it involves a cohabitant.
Utah law defines a cohabitant as someone you have ever lived with, or someone that you are related to by blood or marriage, or someone with whom you have a child. This could involve roommates, ex-roommates, siblings (even adult siblings), wives, or ex-wives – even if you are not currently living with that person, if you have lived with them previously they are considered a cohabitant. If you are charged with a crime such as destruction of property – denting someone’s car, breaking a door jam – and it involves a cohabitant, you will be charged with domestic violence. We have seen a lot of situations where clients are shocked that they have been charged with domestic violence because their actions were not actually violent.
Domestic violence does of course include things more commonly associated with it such as aggravated assault and other serious crimes, but any time your charges are classified as domestic violence it will involve additional court procedures, and additional mandatory consequences for a domestic violence conviction.
If you’ve been charged with domestic violence it is important to get in a touch with a specialized attorney who can help you avoid the long term consequences that are uniquely associated with domestic violence.
You can visit our specialized page to learn more about domestic violence laws, or to contact our attorney Steve Burton, who specializes in having domestic violence classifications dismissed from your charges.