Stand Your Ground Law – Utah

I’m happy to report that Utah is a state with highly modern, grounded and well written self-defense statutes that include that ever important stand-your-ground provision.

So long as the individual or another person is threatened with unlawful force that could result in death or great bodily injury, or threatened with the imminent commission of any forcible felony then the use of lethal defensive force is justified.

flag of Utah

Utah goes a step farther on typical stand-your-ground law verbiage by declaring that a person who has entered or remained lawfully in any place has no duty to retreat from force or the threat of force being used against them.

This is highly inclusive, and has only but a couple of small exceptions involving mutual combat or the initial antagonist standard typical of statutes like this.

You can get all the info you need on Utah’s self-defense law just below.

What You Need to Know

  • In Utah a person may employ lethal force in order to defend themselves or someone else from a reasonable fear of death, or great bodily injury at the hands of an assailant.
  • Lethal force may also be used to halt the commission or prevent the imminent commission of a forcible felony, e.g. robbery, rape, aggravated assault, etc.
  • A person has no duty to retreat from any place that they have legally entered or legally occupy except in certain circumstances.
  • The reasonableness of a person’s action in using lethal force on defense will be judged by the trier of such an incident on multiple criteria.

General Provisions

There are not too many surprises in store when it comes to Utah’s self-defense law. In short, a citizen may use lethal force to defend themselves or someone else so long as they have a legitimate, reasonable fear that they or the third party could suffer death or great bodily injury at the hands of an assailant.

Lethal force is also justified to prevent an ongoing forcible felony or the imminent commission thereof. Forcible felonies are things like burglary, rape, aggravated assault, child molestation etc.

Notably a person has no duty to retreat from any place that they have lawfully entered or lawfully occupy according to Utah law.

This is incredibly broad and inclusive language, and so long as a defender has not surreptitiously gained access to a place they should not be or is otherwise trespassing they should have no trouble regarding when and where they chose to make their stand.

But the Utah statutes concerning self-defense, the very same one that covers the use of lethal force in self-defense, also makes note in Paragraph 5 that the imminence or reasonableness of the threat perceived by the defender will be judged by the trier of fact in a court of law.

These factors include the nature of the danger, the immediacy of the danger, the probability that the force they feared being used against them would in fact result in death or serious bodily injury, the assailant’s prior violent acts or propensities, any pattern of abuse or violence in the relationship between the parties, if a relationship exists and any other relevant factors.

Restrictions

A person is not justified in using force including lethal force under the circumstances set down in the Utah state statutes if they were in fact the initial aggressor by provoking the use of force against themselves with the intent to then use force and retaliation.

Additionally, force may not be used in self-defense nor be justified if it is used while committing, attempting to commit or fleeing from the commission or attempted commission of any felony unless circumstances dictate that the use of that force is a reasonable response to factors that are completely unrelated to the crime.

Further anyone who is participating in a combat by agreement, for our purposes imagine this as any sort of formalized engagement be it sport or for purposes of “settling it outside” (for honor) may not use force and self-defense and claim it justified unless the person doing so has effectively communicated to the other person participating that they intend to withdraw but were prevented from doing so while the other party continues to use force against them. Whew!

Assessment

Utah is an entirely reasonable state when it comes to self-defense and has a particularly strongly worded stand your ground provision.

Most citizens who live on the right side of the law and stay out of bad situations will not have anything to worry about in Utah so long as they can articulate a reasonable and sincere fear of death or great bodily injury at the hands of an assailant.

It must be noted, however, that Utah does place special emphasis on determining the reasonableness of a defender’s perception in regards to the threat that warranted their use of force in defense.

Relevant Utah Use of Force Statutes

76-1-601. Definitions.

Unless otherwise provided, as used in this title:

(1) “Act” means a voluntary bodily movement and includes speech.

(2) “Actor” means a person whose criminal responsibility is in issue in a criminal action.

(3) “Bodily injury” means physical pain, illness, or any impairment of physical condition.

(4) “Conduct” means an act or omission.

(5) “Dangerous weapon” means:

(a) any item capable of causing death or serious bodily injury; or

(b) a facsimile or representation of the item, if:

(i) the actor’s use or apparent intended use of the item leads the victim to reasonably believe the item is likely to cause death or serious bodily injury; or

(ii) the actor represents to the victim verbally or in any other manner that he is in control of such an item.

(6) “Grievous sexual offense” means:

(a) rape, Section 76-5-402;

(b) rape of a child, Section 76-5-402.1;

(c) object rape, Section 76-5-402.2;

(d) object rape of a child, Section 76-5-402.3;

(e) forcible sodomy, Subsection 76-5-403(2);

(f) sodomy on a child, Section 76-5-403.1;

(g) aggravated sexual abuse of a child, Subsection 76-5-404.1(4);

(h) aggravated sexual assault, Section 76-5-405;

(i) any felony attempt to commit an offense described in Subsections (6)(a) through (h); or

(j) an offense in another state, territory, or district of the United States that, if committed in Utah, would constitute an offense described in Subsections (6)(a) through (i).

(…)

(15) “Serious bodily injury” means bodily injury that creates or causes serious permanent disfigurement, protracted loss or impairment of the function of any bodily member or organ, or creates a substantial risk of death.

(16) “Substantial bodily injury” means bodily injury, not amounting to serious bodily injury, that creates or causes protracted physical pain, temporary disfigurement, or temporary loss or impairment of the function of any bodily member or organ.

76-2-402. Force in defense of person — Forcible felony defined.

(1) As used in this section:

(a) “Forcible felony” means aggravated assault, mayhem, aggravated murder, murder, manslaughter, kidnapping and aggravated kidnapping, rape, forcible sodomy, rape of a child, object rape, object rape of a child, sexual abuse of a child, aggravated sexual abuse of a child, and aggravated sexual assault as defined in Title 76, Chapter 5, Offenses Against the Person, and arson, robbery, and burglary as defined in Title 76, Chapter 6, Offenses Against Property.

(b) “Forcible felony” includes any other felony offense that involves the use of force or violence against an individual that poses a substantial danger of death or serious bodily injury.

(c) “Forcible felony” does not include burglary of a vehicle, as defined in Section 76-6-204, unless the vehicle is occupied at the time unlawful entry is made or attempted.

(2)

(a) An individual is justified in threatening or using force against another individual when and to the extent that the individual reasonably believes that force or a threat of force is necessary to defend the individual or another individual against the imminent use of unlawful force.

(b) An individual is justified in using force intended or likely to cause death or serious bodily injury only if the individual reasonably believes that force is necessary to prevent death or serious bodily injury to the individual or another individual as a result of imminent use of unlawful force, or to prevent the commission of a forcible felony.

(3)

(a) An individual is not justified in using force under the circumstances specified in Subsection (2) if the individual:

(i) initially provokes the use of force against another individual with the intent to use force as an excuse to inflict bodily harm upon the other individual;

(ii) is attempting to commit, committing, or fleeing after the commission or attempted commission of a felony , unless the use of force is a reasonable response to factors unrelated to the commission, attempted commission, or fleeing after the commission of that felony ; or

(iii) was the aggressor or was engaged in a combat by agreement, unless the individual withdraws from the encounter and effectively communicates to the other individual the intent to withdraw from the encounter and, notwithstanding, the other individual continues or threatens to continue the use of unlawful force.

(b) For purposes of Subsection (3)(a)(iii) the following do not, alone, constitute “combat by agreement”:

(i) voluntarily entering into or remaining in an ongoing relationship; or

(ii) entering or remaining in a place where one has a legal right to be.

(4) Except as provided in Subsection (3)(a)(iii):

(a) an individual does not have a duty to retreat from the force or threatened force described in Subsection (2) in a place where that individual has lawfully entered or remained; and

(b) the failure of an individual to retreat under the provisions of Subsection (4)(a) is not a relevant factor in determining whether the individual who used or threatened force acted reasonably.

(5) In determining imminence or reasonableness under Subsection (2), the trier of fact may consider:

(a) the nature of the danger;

(b) the immediacy of the danger;

(c) the probability that the unlawful force would result in death or serious bodily injury;

(d) the other individual’s prior violent acts or violent propensities;

(e) any patterns of abuse or violence in the parties’ relationship; and

(f) any other relevant factors.

76-2-405. Force in defense of habitation.

(1) A person is justified in using force against another when and to the extent that he reasonably believes that the force is necessary to prevent or terminate the other’s unlawful entry into or attack upon his habitation; however, he is justified in the use of force which is intended or likely to cause death or serious bodily injury only if:

(a) the entry is made or attempted in a violent and tumultuous manner, surreptitiously, or by stealth, and he reasonably believes that the entry is attempted or made for the purpose of assaulting or offering personal violence to any person, dwelling, or being in the habitation and he reasonably believes that the force is necessary to prevent the assault or offer of personal violence; or

(b) he reasonably believes that the entry is made or attempted for the purpose of committing a felony in the habitation and that the force is necessary to prevent the commission of the felony.

(2) The person using force or deadly force in defense of habitation is presumed for the purpose of both civil and criminal cases to have acted reasonably and had a reasonable fear of imminent peril of death or serious bodily injury if the entry or attempted entry is unlawful and is made or attempted by use of force, or in a violent and tumultuous manner, or surreptitiously or by stealth, or for the purpose of committing a felony.

76-2-406. Force in defense of property — Affirmative defense.

(1) A person is justified in using force, other than deadly force, against another when and to the extent that the person reasonably believes that force is necessary to prevent or terminate another person’s criminal interference with real property or personal property:

(a) lawfully in the person’s possession;

(b) lawfully in the possession of a member of the person’s immediate family; or

(c) belonging to a person whose property the person has a legal duty to protect.

(2) In determining reasonableness under Subsection (1), the trier of fact shall, in addition to any other factors, consider the following factors:

(a) the apparent or perceived extent of the damage to the property;

(b) property damage previously caused by the other person;

(c) threats of personal injury or damage to property that have been made previously by the other person; and

(d) any patterns of abuse or violence between the person and the other person.

76-2-407. Deadly force in defense of persons on real property.

(1) A person is justified in using force intended or likely to cause death or serious bodily injury against another in his defense of persons on real property other than his habitation if:

(a) he is in lawful possession of the real property;

(b) he reasonably believes that the force is necessary to prevent or terminate the other person’s trespass onto the real property;

(c) the trespass is made or attempted by use of force or in a violent and tumultuous manner; and

(d)

(i) the person reasonably believes that the trespass is attempted or made for the purpose of committing violence against any person on the real property and he reasonably believes that the force is necessary to prevent personal violence; or

(ii) the person reasonably believes that the trespass is made or attempted for the purpose of committing a forcible felony as defined in Section 76-2-402 that poses imminent peril of death or serious bodily injury to a person on the real property and that the force is necessary to prevent the commission of that forcible felony.

(2) The person using deadly force in defense of persons on real property under Subsection (1) is presumed for the purpose of both civil and criminal cases to have acted reasonably and had a reasonable fear of imminent peril of death or serious bodily injury if the trespass or attempted trespass is unlawful and is made or attempted by use of force, or in a violent and tumultuous manner, or for the purpose of committing a forcible felony.

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