Domestic violence is always a serious crime, and one that can destroy lives permanently even if it never escalates to death. Unfortunately, there’s a glaring hole in Utah law – which can leave many without help until it’s too late.
Under current law, there are several types of protective orders which can be obtained to protect victims of abuse, harm or stalking. If you are a co-habitating adult with, married to, or have children with the abusing person, a protective order is relatively easy to obtain.
However, if you are simply dating a person who becomes abusive, the only available avenue is a civil stalking injunction. The standards are high, and it almost always requires evidence of multiple incidences of abuse. If you put that in context with the criminal justice system, where women and men are encouraged to report abuse early and on the first incident, it can easily leave people being abused without any recourse.
HB 50, the Dating Violence Protection Act from Representative Jen Seelig (Democrat, SLC), seeks to close that loophole and provide early protections for victims. Protective orders would now be available on the first notification of abuse or dating violence, tailored specifically to dating circumstances. Rather than orders which can last for years or permanently, a protective order under the Dating Violence Protection Act lasts for 180 days – typically long enough for the victim to extricate themselves from the situation. Also unlike the protection in a co-habitation situation, the protective orders for dating don’t prohibit the abuser from going to the same school or business as the abused, as the proximity might be accidental (as no children are involved). However, if necessary the accused abuser can be restricted to coming within a certain distance of the victim.
This is a bill that has been proposed in years past, but has a much higher chance of passing this year thanks to certain changes, the most noticeable of which involves firearms. In the case of spouses, the relationship is recognized by the federal government, and as such can fall under federal law prohibiting the abuser from owning or possessing a firearm. The Dating Violence Protection Act applies only to dating relationships, which are not recognized by federal law. As such, only the state law would apply and a state judge issuing the protective order has sole discretion of whether to ban the abuser from possession of firearms.
To contact Rep. Seelig, Click Here or call 801-519-2544
Impact on Average Utahn:
High Impact 5 . 4 . 3 . 2 . 1 . 0 No Impact
Necessary 5 . 4 . 3 . 2 . 1 . 0 Unnecessary
Great Bill 5 . 4 . 3 . 2 . 1 . 0 . -1 . -2 . -3 . -4 . -5 Poor Bill