Domestic Violence in Utah

Domestic violence is a serious problem worldwide, and Utah is by far no exception.

Wife and her dog

One of the several cases of domestic violence this month in Utah left a woman with facial wounds, a dog in surgery, and a man in jail. Earlier this month, a 40 year old Santaquin Utah man was arrested for multiple charges when he was involved in a fight with a woman at their home. After hitting the woman in the head in front of her children, he then stabbed her service dog- nearly killing it. While it is unknown what sparked the argument that ended with physical aggression, domestic violence rarely needs a rational reason.

Legal definition

Photo by: West Midlands Police

Photo by: West Midlands Police

Utah Code 77-36-1 identifies domestic violence as “any criminal offense involving violence or physical harm or threat of violence or physical harm, or any attempt, conspiracy, or solicitation to commit a criminal offense involving violence or physical harm, when committed by one cohabitant against another.” 77-36-1 also states that it can . . . include “commission or attempt to commit, any of the following offenses by one cohabitant against another:

(a) aggravated assault . . .
(b) assault . . .
(c) criminal homicide . . .
(d) harassment . . .
(e) electronic communication harassment . . .
(f) kidnapping . . .
(g) mayhem . . .
(h) sexual offenses . . .
(i) stalking . . .
(j) unlawful detention . . .
(k) violation of a protective order . . .
(l) [some] offense[s] against property . . .
(m) Possession of a deadly weapon with intent to assault . . .
(n) Discharge of a firearm from a vehicle, near a highway, or in the direction of any person, building, or vehicle . . .
(o) Disorderly conduct . . .
(p) Child abuse . . . “

Penalties  for charges can range from a misdemeanor to a felony depending on the offense in question.

More than assault

Domestic violence is typically seen as a physical assault on a person, usually a spouse. What is unknown to many however is that it can also be delivered as mental and emotional abuse. The Utah Domestic Violence Coalition states: “Domestic violence can be physical, sexual, emotional, economic, or psychological actions or threats of actions that influence another person. This includes any behaviors that intimidate, manipulate, humiliate, isolate, frighten, terrorize, coerce, threaten, blame, hurt, injure, or wound someone.”

Not just between couples

Domestic violence takes place frequently between couples but it can also occur with children, elderly family members, and even roommates with no blood relationship. As long as the victim and the assailant are cohabitants, then domestic violence charges can occur from any violent or threatening episode between the two parties.

Domestic violence away from home

Although the most common setting, domestic violence doesn’t always take place at a residential building such as a home or apartment. It can be any harm done to someone by a person they live with, regardless of where they are when the attack takes place. A spouse that starts a fight with their significant other at work, or a parent that slaps their child around in front of the school are both cases in which domestic violence charges could ensue.

Statistics & penalties

Compiling statistics of domestic violence cases in Utah is difficult, as many of them go unreported. The reports that are compiled base their information on injuries and deaths of women at the hands of men. While there are many women who are the victims of domestic violence, it isn’t uncommon to see the man as the one being hurt. These new findings can create a lot of confusion for officer who respond to domestic violence calls. All too often “who is at fault” is not completely clear to police upon arrival. This can lead to false or misguided charges against a person. For anyone facing charges of domestic violence, whether the charges are justified or not, speak with an attorney immediately.

Child Abandonment for Leaving Children Home Alone

Deciding what age is appropriate for children to be left home alone or with an older sibling is difficult for parents to determine, especially when it could be seen as neglect or child abandonment.

Legal age for being home alone

Photo by: Nagesh Jayaraman

Photo by: Nagesh Jayaraman

While Utah doesn’t have a specific age in which children are old enough to be left home alone, it is recommended by the National SAFEKIDS campaign that parents not leave anyone under the age of 12 home alone, and even then only if they are mature. When leaving children home alone, it is important that the children have key essentials first, such as:

• Mature older sibling or babysitter
• Food
• Shelter
• Clothing
• Emergency contact numbers
• Safe, childproofed home
• Rules for staying safe

Leaving children without the things they need to be safe and healthy is looked at as being negligent, and can lead to neglect or child abandonment charges. Unfortunately for one Utah family, the responsible parent failed to provide for the needs of her children prior to her departure and is now facing prison time.

Utah mom leaves children at motel

Photo by: Oakridge Camp and Retreat Center

Photo by: Oakridge Camp and Retreat Center

A southern Utah mom was arrested last week for charges related to child abandonment after she left her three children alone at the motel where the family was living. The oldest child, a 14 year old, is assumed to have been in charge during her absence. During the time that the mother was away, the two younger children, without proper winter attire, left their older sibling at the motel room late at night to go obtain food. Police officers spotted the improperly dressed, hungry children and followed them back to the motel. There the children disclosed that they had no food and didn’t know where their mom was. Officers later located and confronted the mom about her whereabouts, learning she had been out of state and appeared to be under the influence of drugs. Although a 14 year old should have been old enough to watch their two younger siblings for a short period of time, the mom is facing prison for charges related to child abandonment because she left the children without the clothing and nutrition provisions they needed and no way to contact her or another adult.

Child Abuse

Photo by: Ken Mayer

Photo by: Ken Mayer

The phrase “child abandonment” is often used during parental custody battles, when one parent attempts to prove that the other has no interest in the child(ren). Utah law however, also uses this term to define parents who leave their children in poor circumstances. According to Utah code 76-5-109, child abandonment is when “a parent or legal guardian of a child [human being who is under 18 years of age]:
• Intentionally ceases to maintain physical custody of the child;
• Intentionally fails to make reasonable arrangements for the safety, care, and physical custody of the child; and
• Intentionally fails to provide the child with food, shelter, or clothing […]”

Child abandonment is considered child abuse and is punished as such. Utah Code 76-5-109 also states: “A person who commits child abandonment, or encourages or causes another to commit child abandonment, or an enterprise that encourages, commands, or causes another to commit child abandonment, is:
(a) […] guilty of a felony of the third degree; or
(b) guilty of a felony of the second degree, if, as a result of the child abandonment:
(i) the child suffers a serious physical injury; or
(ii) the person or enterprise receives, directly or indirectly, any benefit.”

Any parents who are facing child abandonment charges after leaving their children home unattended are encouraged to seek counsel from a reputable criminal defense attorney.

Southern Utah woman arrested for Child Abuse

Party of one

A southern Utah woman was arrested for child abuse Friday when police found her passed out drunk while her 1 year old baby wandered unattended.  26 year old Amanda Lee Gardner was staying at The Rodeway Inn in southern Utah, where it appears she consumed a large quantity of alcohol and left her 1 year old daughter to roam the hotel.

Photo by: Christina Welsh

Photo by: Christina Welsh

Sick baby, drunk mom

The one year old baby girl was found alone by other patrons of the hotel after 10pm at night.  She was wandering around on the outside balcony of the second story and was acting very ill.  She was vomiting and obviously needed medical care.  Police were called and when they located Gardner she was intoxicated on the floor, and difficult to arouse.  Police then contacted an ambulance and CPS.

Treated, then arrested for child abuse

Both baby and Gardner were taken to Dixie Regional Medical Center.  The baby girl was dehydrated and had hypothermia but has made a full recovery.  She has been taken into Child Protective Services until further notice.  Gardner was released from the hospital, arrested, and transported to Purgatory Correctional Facility in Hurricane, Utah.  She is facing charges of child abuse of a disabled child because of her neglecting a child of such a young age.  This charge is a third-degree felony.

Next time get a sitter

Amanda Lee Gardner has history of alcohol offenses in southern Utah, but no known charges of child abuse.  She was ordered to get help in the past for her addiction, but it appears that alcohol still has control of her life.  It is unknown as to why she was at the hotel with her daughter and if she was drinking alone.  Although no child should be left in the care of a negligent parent, proper rehabilitation for Gardner could eventually make her fit to parent her child again.  With an understanding and intelligent criminal defense attorney, those facing child abuse charges while under the influence of alcohol can regain control of their lives again.