Cohabitant Now Includes Sexual Partners
Historically in Utah a person could be charged with domestic violence only if the alleged domestic violence victim was the spouse of the perpetrator or at least closely related or associated by blood or children. Utah makes domestic violence offenses specific to perpetrators and “cohabitants.”
A “cohabitant” included, until recently, only the following:
- Your husband or wife;
- Anyone you have lived with as a husband or wife. Another term for this is a “common law marriage”;
- Your blood relationships and in-laws to the first and second degrees. First degree relatives are parents, siblings, and children, also known as immediate relatives. Second degree relatives are aunts, uncles, grandparents, grandchildren, nieces, and nephews;
- Any person which whom you have had children. This includes unborn children.
- Anyone with whom you have resided in the same residence. This is “anyone” – it does not have to be a relative of any kind. It can include an unrelated roommate or anyone else under your same roof.
Recently, the Utah Legislature changed the law defining “cohabitant,” and therefore the definition of “domestic violence victim,” to include anyone with whom you have or had a sexual relationship. So…under that definition if you had one sexual encounter with a person you can be charged with domestic violence for any of the many different types of domestic violence charges under Utah law assuming the facts support such a charge.
Was Including A Sexual Partner As A Domestic Violence Victim Necessary?
It is unclear why the Legislature felt it was important to expand the definition of domestic violence victims to include sexual partners, but the change of definition has far reaching consequences. Someone who is convicted of domestic violence is subject to the enhanceable penalties for DV related crimes, a loss of the right to possess firearms, and other consequences to which non-DV related violent crimes are not subjected.