On March 17, Governor Gary Herbert signed Senate Bill (SB) 235, which modified assault offenses against certain persons to include a threat of violence. Utah statutes for assault against school employees, assault against peace officer or a military servicemember in uniform, and assault against health care provider and emergency medical service worker were amended such that an alleged offender now commits those offenses if he or she commits an assault or threat of violence against those protected classes.
Utah Code § 76-5-102(1) defines an assault as “an attempt, with unlawful force or violence, to do bodily injury to another” or “an act, committed with unlawful force or violence, that causes bodily injury to another or creates a substantial risk of bodily injury to another.” Under Utah Code § 76-5-107(1), a person commits a threat of violence 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” or “makes a threat, accompanied by a show of immediate force or violence, to do bodily injury to another.”
Assault and threat of violence are both class B misdemeanor offenses on their own, although assault can be a class A misdemeanor if the alleged offender causes substantial bodily injury to another person or the alleged victim is pregnant and the alleged offender has knowledge of the pregnancy. Assault against school employees is also a class A misdemeanor, but assault against peace officer or a military servicemember in uniform and assault against health care provider and emergency medical service worker can become third-degree or second-degree felony offenses.
Attorney for Assault Arrests in Salt Lake City
The passage of SB 235 now allows people to be arrested for alleged assault crimes committed against certain protected classes for mere threats. Utah Code § 76-5-107(4) notes that a threat of violence can be “express or implied,” but an alleged offender cannot claim he or she did not attempt to or was incapable of carrying out the threat as a legal defense.
Prosecutors often aggressively seek harsh penalties for people accused of violent crimes such as assault, and the commitment to maximum punishments is only compounded when the alleged victim is a member of a protected class. Utah Code § 76-2-402(1)(a), however, provides that a “person is justified in threatening or using force against another when and to the extent that the person reasonably believes that force or a threat of force is necessary to defend the person or a third person against another person’s imminent use of unlawful force.”
Self-defense claims can be valid excuses for many people facing assault charges in Utah, but it can be tricky proving that an alleged offender reasonably believed that force or a threat of force was necessary to defend him or herself. Anybody accused of assault against a certain protected class of individuals should contact a Salt Lake City criminal defense lawyer as soon as possible for help possibly having criminal charges reduced or dismissed.