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Criminal Defense Attorney Stephen Howard
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Utah Cohabitant Abuse Act Defense Attorney

Challenging the Constitutionality of Utah’s Domestic Violence Enhanced Penalties

The Utah Cohabitant Abuse Act provides for enhanced penalties for a second or subsequent conviction for certain domestic violence offenses. Utah Code 77-36-1 et seq. For purposes of the Utah Cohabitant Abuse Act, the term “cohabitant is defined under Utah Code 78B-7-102 as follows:

"Cohabitant" means an emancipated person pursuant to Section 15-2-1 or a person who is 16 years of age or older who:
(a) is or was a spouse of the other party;
(b) is or was living as if a spouse of the other party;
(c) is related by blood or marriage to the other party;
(d) has or had one or more children in common with the other party;
(e) is the biological parent of the other party's unborn child; or
(f) resides or has resided in the same residence as the other party.
 
A challenge was brought against this statute in the Utah Court of Appeals case of State v. Salt, 2015 UT App 72, arguing that the definition of “cohabitant” is unconstitutionally vague and overbroad. Specifically, the defendant in the Salt case challenged the provisions of the definition which includes a person who “resides or has resided in the same residence as [the victim].”

The Court of Appeals affirmed the defendant’s conviction, holding that the statutory definition of “cohabitant” was neither unconstitutionally vague nor overbroad. However, the statute may still be open to challenge.

The following pages will present information and analysis of the issues of unconstitutional vagueness and overbreadth as raised in Salt. They will also address potential challenges to the Salt decision on the issue of overbreadth as well as a challenge to the statute on the basis of an equal protection argument.

- Unconstitutional Vagueness
- Unconstitutional Overbreadth
- Equal Protection Violations

Criminal Defense Attorney for Domestic Violence Charges in Salt Lake City

Salt Lake Criminal Defense LawyerIf you are facing prosecution for a domestic violence offense, with or without enhanced penalties, the consequences can be serious. Having the assistance of an experienced criminal defense attorney can be vital. Contact us now to arrange for an initial confidential consultation with Utah criminal lawyer Stephen Howard.


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  • Selected Victories
  • Criminal Defense AttorneyDismissed - Contractor was charged with theft by deception for allegedly misusing customer funds and failing to complete work that had been agreed upon. A successful motion to quash on legal grounds following the bindover order at preliminary hearing resulted in a complete dismissal of all charges.
  • Minor Possession Alcohol - MIP AttorneyDismissed - Minor in possession charge (MIP) was dismissed by prosecutor when defense analysis demonstrated that the police had failed to obtain necessary evidence against client. Police had raided a large party involving underage drinking. Several individuals were charged, but police did not obtain evidence showing that client had personally consumed or possessed alcohol. Case was dismissed.
  • Utah Expungement Attorney Expungement - Worked to restore client's expungement eligibility through 402 reduction process, then filed successful expungement petitions in multiple courts obtaining expungement orders and clearing client's official criminal history.
  • Felony Attorney Utah Dismissed - Client facing first-degree felony charge and possible life in prison for child kidnapping. Full defense analysis of the case revealed critical legal flaws in the prosecution's case. When confronted with the defense legal analysis, the prosecutor agreed to dismiss the case outright without trial.
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Serving Salt Lake, Davis, Weber, Utah, Cache, Tooele, Summit, Box Elder, and Wasatch Counties, and all of Utah.

Attorney Stephen Howard practices as part of the Canyons Law Group, LLC and Stephen W. Howard, PC.

Offices in Salt Lake and Davis Counties
560 South 300 East, Suite 200, Salt Lake City, UT 84111
952 S. Main St., Suite A, Layton, UT 84041

Call now to arrange for a confidential initial consultation with an experienced and effective Utah criminal defense lawyer.

In Salt Lake City, call 801-449-1409.
In Davis County, call 801-923-4345.

Stephen W. Howard, PC

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