Homicide charges are extremely serious and require immediate legal attention. Not only can a conviction have devastating criminal penalties, including years of prison time and thousands of dollars in fines — it will also result in a permanent felony record. With a prior homicide conviction linked to your name, finding employment, advancing your career, or taking advantage of other opportunities can become next to impossible. In addition, you can also lose your driving privileges and other rights.
The consequences of a homicide conviction are devastating. Don’t face the charges alone. You and your loved ones deserve the benefit of skilled legal representation.
Contact A Utah Criminal Defense Attorney for a Free Legal Consultation
Salt Lake City criminal defense attorney Darwin Overson has over a decade of experience handling felony and misdemeanor charges on behalf of adult and juvenile defendants. In more than 16 years working on thousands of criminal cases, Darwin has built a reputation as an aggressive trial attorney with an unwavering commitment to justice. When other attorneys give up and say a case is too challenging, Darwin is there to fight the allegations tooth and nail.
To set up a free and confidential legal consultation with Darwin, call the law offices of Overson Law at (801) 758-2287. Darwin handles homicide cases in Salt Lake County, Weber County, Davis County, Wasatch County, Tooele County, Summit County, and throughout the state of Utah. He is available 24 hours a day and is prepared to make emergency jail visits.
When Can a Person Be Charged with Vehicular Homicide?
Homicide is an umbrella term that includes murder, aggravated murder, manslaughter, and other crimes that involve causing a human death. Being charged with automobile homicide does not mean that you are being charged with murder, nor is capital punishment (the death penalty) a sentencing option. However, as the next section explains in greater detail, the repercussions of an automobile homicide conviction can still be catastrophic.
Automobile homicide, which is sometimes referred to as vehicular homicide, is defined under Utah Code § 76-5-207. Under the statute, an act of homicide is vehicular homicide when “the person operates a motor vehicle in a negligent manner causing the death of another” and:
- The person was driving while intoxicated by drugs, alcohol, or a combination of both. This includes legal drugs, such as prescription medications, that can cause drowsiness or other impairment.
- A breathalyzer, urine test, or blood test shows a blood alcohol content (BAC) of 0.08% or greater — the threshold for driving under the influence (DUI) — at the time of the accident or subsequent testing.
Simple vs. Criminal Negligence and How it Affects Sentencing
Utah Code § 76-5-207 specifies driving a car, truck, or other vehicle “in a negligent manner” as an element of vehicular homicide charges. Acting negligently is different from acting intentionally, which is an element of murder, or recklessly, which is an element of manslaughter.
There are two standards for negligence that can affect automobile homicide charges:
- Simple Negligence — Utah defines simple negligence as “failure to exercise [the amount of] care that reasonable and prudent persons [would] exercise under… similar circumstances.” Stated another way: failing to take the normal safety precautions in a given situation.
- Criminal Negligence — Simple negligence frequently arises in civil matters. Negligence becomes criminal when a person should have known that his or her actions would create a serious, unjustifiable hazard — when a person “ought to be aware of a substantial and unjustifiable risk that the circumstances exist or the result will occur.”
This distinction is important because it determines which type of felony the defendant may be charged with. In turn, this affects the penalties the defendant will face if convicted.
Criminal Penalties for Felony Offenses in Utah
A crime in Utah can be classified as a misdemeanor or a felony. The most serious crimes, including most forms of homicide, are felonies.
In Utah, felonies are divided into four groups: third degree felonies, second degree felonies, first degree felonies, and capital felonies, a group which only includes aggravated murder. First degree felonies have the harshest sentencing possibilities.
Depending on the circumstances, automobile homicide can be categorized as a second or third degree felony. It is a third degree felony when the defendant acts with simple negligence, and a second degree felony when the defendant acts with criminal negligence. It can also be a second degree felony if the defendant acts with simple negligence but has prior convictions related to DUI, reckless driving, or vehicular homicide.
Criminal penalties for second and third degree felonies in Utah may include:
- Third Degree Felony
- Fine — Up to $5,000
- Sentence — Up to 5 years in prison
- Second Degree Felony
- Fine – Up to $10,000
- Sentence — 1 to 15 years in prison
If one of your loved ones was arrested for vehicular homicide in Salt Lake County or other areas of Utah, it is crucial that you move quickly to start assessing your family’s legal options. Call Salt Lake City criminal defense attorney Darwin Overson at (801) 758-2287 right away to set up a free legal consultation. Your information will be kept confidential.