Assault and Battery
When a Fight Turns into an Arrest, Seek Legal Advice
An arrest for assault may be a misdemeanor or felony charge, depending on the precise circumstances of the crime—for example, whether a weapon was used, whether children were present, whether anyone was seriously injured, and so on. “Battery” is a popularized term, not a legal one; the definitions of battery are included in Utah’s assault laws.
Arrests for assault can arise out of any number of common situations: a domestic dispute, a bar fight, or a verbal threat to someone you believe is threatening you.
Assault arrests do not automatically lead to conviction, even if there were witnesses to the incident. Self-defense is a valid defense to a charge of assault (read more about self-defense below). Another valid defense is acting in defense of another. However, assault cases are usually resolved by a judge or a jury. Without help from a knowledgeable criminal defense lawyer, your chances of avoiding a conviction may lessen dramatically.
What Laws Address "Assault"?
The main Utah codes relating to assault charges are Assault (76-5-102) and Aggravated Assault (76-5-103) . The laws are quite inclusive. There are specific codes for assaulting active school employees or volunteers (public or private), uniformed military personnel (including National Guard), peace officers, prisoners, correctional officers, and medical or healthcare providers and emergency caregivers. Enhancements include using weapons and propellants (including bodily fluids like spit). There are definitions to include harassment, disarming of law enforcement, threats, dismemberment (aka mayhem), and consensual combat (such as duels and organized fights).
What If Your Actions Are in Self Defense?
When a person attacks you or another person in your presence in such a way that you or they feel imminent death or serious bodily injury, you are allowed to defend yourself and/or the other person(s) without fear of criminal prosecution. Utah Code section 76-2-402 addresses this situation. Note that this defense can be challenging to prove, however. The evidence often comes down to witness statements and he said/she said arguments, which are highly subjective and often unreliable. Some other challenges here are that you cannot be considered an aggressor or provoker in the situation to use this defense, nor can you use this defense if you were attempting or committing another crime. Also, some points that would be considered by a judge or jury would be your past and that of your aggressor. For example, do either of you have prior criminal records, specifically violent charges, or a history of abuse or anger management issues? How immediate and alarming was the danger? Was the response level and force reasonable?
Consider the following scenarios where self defense might be hard to prove:
- A fist fight breaks out at a party where witnesses and participants may be less than completely sober.
- A domestic shouting match erupts in a kitchen where knives and children are present.
- A high school student shouts an insult at a fellow student and the other student attacks back with a weapon.
- An arranged combat scenario where one participant is further attacked after withdrawing or “tapping out.”
- A woman taunts her spouse over the course of several hours until he strikes back, and the incident is caught on security footage.
- Your date encounters an angry ex while you’re out, so you step in between the two as the threat escalates and land a knockout punch.
If you truly believe you acted in self defense, help us start building your case right away. Don’t talk to anyone else before you talk to an experienced, knowledgeable attorney. You don’t always know what is and isn’t relevant, and you can hurt your case by taking actions without legal direction.
Threats & Harassment: Assault Without Touching
Most people think you have to physically touch someone to be charged with assault. Some people think the “touch” needs to be forceful to count as assault, like throwing a punch or shoving someone hard. Not true. A person can be guilty of assault if he or she “threatens to commit any offense involving bodily injury, death, or substantial property damage, and acts with intent to place a person in fear of imminent serious bodily injury, substantial bodily injury, or death” to another person(s), either expressly or implied, are capable of carrying out that threat, and show to intent to do so. Imagine if you’re fighting with your boyfriend in a crowded restaurant and you shout, “I’m going to shoot you,” and then you pull out a gun. That’s grounds for an assault charge even though you haven’t touched him. Utah Code 46-5-107 deals with threats.
Another “touchless” assault is harassment. In the context of assault, “a person is guilty of harassment if, with intent to frighten or harass another, he communicates a written or recorded threat to commit any violent felony” (Utah Code 76-5-106).
There are also other harassment offenses, such as the increasingly common electronic communication harassment (also called telephone harassment), which involves “intent to intimidate, abuse, threaten, harass, frighten, or disrupt the electronic communications of another” (see UCA 76-9-201)).
Utah law addresses the sexual harassment concept under a series of offenses depending on the actions and circumstances involved. “Sexual harassment” is often a civil complaint, generally used in a workplace context. But sexual harassment crosses into criminal charges when there are components of force or violence, threats, and other sexual offenses, such as rape. These cases are complex and usually involve multiple parties and agencies.
Talk to one of our attorneys if you have been accused of harassment.
We Are Aggressive, Active Advocates for Our Clients
Schatz, Anderson & Associates, LLC is a fully staffed Salt Lake City Criminal Defense Law Firm whose attorneys have built a reputation as strong and active advocates for their clients. We fight hard, obtaining additional and independent discovery in most of our cases to search for the best defense possible. Our attorneys have a combined 40 years of legal experience, and we emphasize active defense of our clients—as opposed to some other law firms that may choose quick plea bargains as the easiest solution.
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