Crimes of Dishonesty in Utah

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Representation in Salt Lake City, Utah for over 30 years

Aggravated Assault is either a third degree felony or a second degree felony. In 2017 the law changed so that any act that impedes (slows or interferes with) the breath is a third degree felony. That means that if an alleged victim accuses a suspect of choking or putting their hand over their face or mouth the prosecutor can charge the suspect with a third degree felony. The change in the law removed the need for some corroborating evidence such as bruising around the neck or face because impeding the breath does not take much force.  This change in the law has resulted in many more third degree felony aggravated assault charges being filed.

Prosecutors claim that the reason for changing the law was that in domestic violence cases choking is a precursor to extreme violence by the perpetrator. In other words they say choking is a red line, that once crossed by a perpetrator, puts the alleged victim in extreme danger. I respect that motivation but the law has resulted in some abuses by the alleged victims and police. The police are trained to look for choking and impeded breathing evidence and will ask the accuser at the scene if it occurred. If the alleged victim is vindictive they answer, yes and the accused will be charged with a third degree felony even if there is no physical evidence.  

In a domestic relationship often the alleged victim is looking for an advantage over their partner if the relationship has soured. To allege that their partner choked them or covered their face with their hand and impeded their breathing proves to be too tempting to some accusers. They merely need to allege that their breathing was interfered with and they have a third degree felony as leverage to negotiate during the separation or divorce.  The allegation requires no proof other than the word of the accuser. 

These situations present helpless feelings for the accused. They ask me how can the government charge me with no evidence and they are frequently incredulous when I explain the law to them. Fortunately, I have been practicing law for 32 years and I have developed arguments to contest these types of allegations.