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Know the Laws: Utah

UPDATED November 15, 2016

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WomensLaw.org strongly recommends that you get in touch with a domestic violence advocate in your community for more information on gun laws in your area.  Go to the UT Where to Find Help page to find help.

Guns and Protective Orders

back to topI have a protection order against the abuser. Can s/he keep a gun or buy a new gun?

No, according to Utah state law, if the judge sees the abuser's gun as a serious enough threat, the judge can order that the respondent* cannot have or buy a gun and must give up any guns s/he has.*

In addition, there is a warning written on both your temporary and full protective order, which tells the abuser that it is a federal crime to have, receive, or buy any firearm or ammunition while the protective order is in effect.

However, please note that in Utah, the police may not actually take the gun away after the protective order hearing unless the abuser commits another crime or violates the order.

  • In order for your protective order to qualify under federal law, the defendant (the person who the order is against) must: " Be served (given) notice of the court hearing.  In other words, the defendant must have been given paperwork that told him or her about the hearing."
  • Have an opportunity to attend the court hearing.  Note: The abuser does not have to be at the hearing, but s/he has to have the opportunity to come to the hearing."
  • Be an "intimate partner" of the victim, which includes:
    • a current or former spouse;
    • a person with whom you share a child;
    • a person you live with or have lived with in the past.** 

Note: If your protective order has expired, it is no longer a valid order under federal law, which means the firearm ban also does not apply.  In Utah, a protective order that is issued after a hearing in which the abuser had the opportunity to participate is valid until the court says otherwise.  Two years after the order is given, the abuser can ask the court to dismiss the order, but if s/he does not ask for it to be dismissed, it will remain in effect.***

Note: This law may not apply to law enforcement officials, military personnel, and other government employees who use guns while performing official duties.****  If the abuser is a police officer, member of the military, or someone else who uses a gun for his/her job, talk to your local domestic violence program about your options.  See UT State and Local Programs to find a program in your area. 

* U.C.A. § 78B-7-106(2)(d)
** 18 USC § 921(a)(32)
*** U.C.A. § 78B-7-106(6)(c)
**** 18 USC § 925(a)(1)

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back to topIs there anything I can do to make it more likely that the abuser's gun is taken away when I get a protective order?

While the box on your protective order does not need to be initialed in order for the federal law to be enforced, it may make it easier if the judge does initial or check this box.  Utah state law does not specifically say that a person who has a protective order against them cannot own or buy a gun, which means it is not always clear to law enforcement officials that the abuser's gun should be taken away when the protective order is issued.  There are a couple steps you can take to make this more likely:

1. If the abuser has a gun, tell the judge how many guns he has, and if s/he has ever threatened you with a gun(s).  You will be asked twice on your petition to request a protective order if the abuser has ever used or threatened to use weapons against you.  Be sure to answer those questions in detail if they apply to you.  You can also make a specific request in your petition that the abuser not be allowed to have guns.  It is important to check this box if you do not want the abuser to have guns or be able to buy guns while the protective order is in effect.

2. At your hearing, ask the judge to check the box on the order that says the respondent cannot have or buy guns or any other weapon the judge lists.

3. Before leaving the courthouse, check to make sure that the gun restriction is checked on your order.  It also may be helpful if the judge explains what will happen to the abuser's guns, who will take them, and where they will be held once you leave the courthouse.  If the judge agrees to initial the box that says that the abuser cannot keep his/her guns while the protective order is in effect, you may also want to ask that the judge:

  • Require the abuser to give his/her guns to the police, or require the police to go to the abuser's house and get them.
  • Make it clear to both you and the abuser how long the guns will be kept away from the abuser.
  • Order that the police notify you when the guns are returned to the abuser.
Please note that in some places in Utah, the police may not actually take the gun away after the protective order hearing unless the  abuser commits another crime or violates the order.

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back to topThe abuser did not show up for the protective order hearing. Can his/her gun still be taken away?

Maybe.  The abuser does not have to come to the hearing in order for the law to apply to him/her, but s/he does have to be given notice of the hearing and an opportunity to attend.*

If no hearing is scheduled, and/or no notice is given about the protective order, then the federal firearm law might not apply to the abuser.** 

* United States v. Bunnell, 106 F. Supp. 2d 60 (D. Me. 2000), aff'd 280 F. 3d 46 (1st Cir. 2002.)
** United States v. Spruill, 292 F. 3d 207 (5th Cir. 2002.)

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back to topI have a temporary protective order against the abuser. Do I have to wait until I receive a full protective order before the abuser's gun is taken away?

You can ask the judge to order on your ex parte (temporary) order that the abuser cannot have a gun while you are waiting for a full court hearing.  If the judge sees the abuser's firearm as a serious enough threat, the judge can do this.*

However, if the judge decides not to order this in the ex parte order, you will probably have to wait until you are given a full protective order. 

* U.C.A. § 78B-7-106(2)(d)

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