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Utah Family Law Attorney Stephen Howard

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Utah Stalking Injunctions and Family Law

Can a family member get a stalking injunction in Utah?

Under Utah law, a protective order can only be issued against a "cohabitant" (often a family member). This requirement does not apply to stalking injunctions, which can be issued against cohabitants, family members, or basically any other person who is shown to have engaged in stalking behavior.

A civil stalking injunction can provide significant protection to the petitioner and can also impose substantial burdens on the respondent, including criminal penalties for violating the stalking injunction. Having an experienced Utah attorney on your side can help to give you the best chance of obtaining the outcome you need in your case. Contact us today to schedule an initial consultation.

Protective Order v. Stalking Injunction

Protective orders and stalking injunctions are similar in some ways. Both can contain an order that a person stay away from, not contact, or otherwise communicate with the protected person. Both can result in criminal charges if a person violates the order or injunction.

But there are significant differences in who can obtain a protective order as opposed to a stalking injunction. Any person can request a stalking injunction, regardless of their relationship to the respondent. But to request a protective order, a person must qualify as a "cohabitant" under Utah law.

The term "cohabitant" has been broadly defined under Utah law. As used in connection with a petition for a protective order, Utah Code Sec. 78B-7-102 defines "cohabitant" as including any person who :

  • is or was a spouse of the other party;
  • is or was living as if a spouse of the other party;
  • is related by blood or marriage to the other party;
  • has one or more children in common with the other party;
  • is the biological parent of the other party's unborn child; or
  • resides or has resided in the same residence as the other party.

Utah Definition of Stalking

According to Utah Code Sec. 76-5-106.5, stalking occurs when a person "knowingly and intentionally engages in a course of conduct directed at a specific person and knows or should know that the course of conduct would cause a reasonable person: (a) to fear for the person's own safety or the safety of a third person; or (b) to suffer other emotional distress." Violation of a temporary stalking injunction, even if the injunction later proves to be groundless, can also be considered stalking and can result in a criminal charge. Violation of a temporary stalking injunction can also serve as grounds for the  for stalking and can result in the entry of a full stalking injunction.

Requesting a Hearing for a Temporary Stalking Injunction

A temporary stalking injunction (sometimes called an "ex-parte" stalking injunction) may be obtained without a hearing if the petition states on its face facts sufficient to support a belief that stalking has occurred. Once the temporary stalking injunction has been served on the respondent, the respondent has ten days to request a hearing.

If the respondent requests a hearing, then the burden of proof is on the petitioner to demonstrate by a preponderance of the evidence that stalking has occurred. The respondent will also have the opportunity to present evidence, and to cross-examine witnesses presented by the petitioner.

If the petitioner fails to carry the required burden of proof, then the temporary stalking injunction should be stricken and the case closed. If the court finds that the petitioner has presented evidence sufficient to meet the required preponderance standard, then the stalking injunction will be entered.

Duration of a Utah Stalking Injunction

The default period of time for a stalking injunction to remain valid is three years from the date it is served on the respondent. A permanent criminal stalking injunction (filed in connection to a criminal case) is, as its name suggests, permanent. A protective order is also considered permanent, and will remain in effect until or unless the court issuing the original order takes contrary action.

Criminal Charges for Violating a Stalking Injunction

A first-time violation of a civil stalking injunction in Utah can result in criminal charges punishable by up to one year in jail. Criminal charges can also be filed, even without the existence of a stalking injunction, if the prosecutor can demonstrate that the defendant has engaged in a course of conduct that meets the elements of stalking. A second or subsequent conviction for violating a stalking injunction can be filed as a felony punishable by up to five years in prison.

A person who is the subject of a civil stalking injunction in Utah can also be prohibited under federal law from receiving or possessing any firearm or ammunition. Violation of these federal laws can carry substantial consequences.

Finding a Utah Family Law Attorney

We are pleased to offer legal services to clients in Salt Lake, Davis, and Weber Counties, and throughout Utah. If you are in need of legal assistance relating to a stalking injunction, family law matter, or other legal issue, having the right attorney can be critical to achieving the outcome you need. Contact us today to see how we can help you.

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Serving Salt Lake, Davis, Weber, Utah, Cache, Tooele, Summit, Box Elder, Morgan, and Wasatch Counties - and all of Utah.

Stephen W. Howard is Utah attorney, practicing as part of the Canyons Law Group, LLC.
With offices in Salt Lake and Davis Counties, we are pleased to provide legal services to clients throughout Utah.
Call 801-449-1409 to arrange for a confidential initial consultation.

Stephen W. Howard, PC

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