About Utah Crime Murder Under Code 76-5-203

Murder is the most serious crime a person can be charged with.  In Utah, a defendant convicted of murder may receive a sentence of life in prison without the possibility of parole.  If you are found guilty, you could lose your freedom forever.  You will also receive enormous criminal fines, forfeit cherished rights and privileges, and have a felony record for the rest of your life.

When the consequences of a conviction are this devastating, you need to do everything you can to maximize your chance of success.  You give yourself the best odds of defeating the charges by seeking representation from an experienced defense lawyer immediately.

Schedule a Free Legal Consultation with an Experienced Salt Lake City Defense Attorney

The repercussions of a murder conviction never fade completely.  When your future hangs in the balance, it is absolutely critical that you have the benefit of highly skilled and experienced legal representation.

Don’t go against a prosecutor without trusted legal guidance on your side.  Turn to criminal attorney Darwin Overson for aggressive representation informed by more than 16 years of legal experience working on thousands of criminal cases. Darwin has established a reputation for handling tough, complex legal challenges and will be there to vigorously defend your rights throughout every step of your case.

To set up a free and confidential legal consultation with Darwin, call Overson Law at (801) 758-2287.  Darwin handles murder and homicide cases in Salt Lake County, Wasatch County, Summit County, Weber County, Davis County, Utah County, and throughout the state.  He is available to make emergency jail and detention center visits on short notice, 24 hours a day.

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Understanding Homicide Charges: How Murder is Different Than Manslaughter

The terms murder and homicide are often used interchangeably.  However, this is not accurate.  Homicide is a broad term that describes causing the death of another person.  Utah divides homicide into many crimes, which include:

  • Murder
  • Aggravated Murder
  • Manslaughter
  • Negligent Homicide
  • Automobile Homicide
  • Child Abuse Homicide
  • Homicide by Assault

The difference between murder and other types of homicide lies in the alleged circumstances surrounding the act.  For example, homicide is manslaughter when committed with recklessness, or disregard for major known safety hazards.    Under Utah Code § 76-5-203, homicide is murder when:

  • The defendant intentionally causes another person’s death.
  • The defendant accidentally causes death while intentionally trying to inflict “serious bodily injury.”
    • Utah defines serious bodily injury to mean “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.”
  • Acting with “depraved indifference to human life,” the defendant intentionally does something that creates a major risk of death, leading to a fatality.
  • The defendant causes the death of another person while committing, attempting to commit, or fleeing from a “predicate” offense. Predicate offenses include:
    • Child abuse involving a child under 18 years old.
    • Kidnapping, aggravated kidnapping, or child kidnapping.
    • Rape, object rape, or aggravated sexual assault.
    • Rape of a child or object rape of a child.
    • Sexual abuse of a child or aggravated sexual abuse of a child.
    • Forcible sexual abuse.
    • Sodomy on a child or forcible sodomy.
    • Arson or aggravated arson.
    • Burglary or aggravated burglary.
    • Robbery or aggravated robbery.
  • The defendant causes the death of a police officer or military servicemember while:
    • Committing or attempting to commit assault.
    • Resisting arrest.
  • The defendant commits a homicide that would otherwise be aggravated murder, but the charges are reduced or special mitigation exists. Special mitigation can exist in two scenarios:
    • The defendant committed the homicide while in a delusional state caused by mental illness.
    • The defendant acted “under the influence of extreme emotional distress.” Crucially, there must be a “reasonable explanation or excuse” for the emotional distress.  Being intoxicated by voluntary use of drugs or alcohol is not considered to be a reasonable explanation or excuse.

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Capital Punishment and Criminal Penalties for Felonies in Utah

A person charged with murder in Utah will not face the death penalty if convicted.  Capital punishment is reserved exclusively for aggravated murder, the only capital felony among all Utah felonies.  Even when defendants are charged with aggravated murder, it is rare for Utah prosecutors to seek the death penalty, more typically pursuing a sentence of life in prison.

While capital punishment is not a sentencing possibility, murder still carries some of the harshest criminal penalties possible under state law.  While Utah’s minimum sentence for a first degree felony is typically five years, the extremely serious nature of the charges mean there are enhanced penalties.  Under Utah Code § 76-5-203(3)(b), a defendant who is convicted of murder faces a sentence of at least 15 years.  Depending on the circumstances, the judge may sentence the defendant to life in prison without the possibility of parole (early release).  The defendant can also be fined up to $10,000.

In some situations, it may be possible to have murder charges reduced to manslaughter charges.  Manslaughter, a second degree felony, carries a sentence ranging from one to 15 years in prison and the same maximum fine of $10,000.

Murder and manslaughter have life-altering criminal consequences.  If one of your relatives was arrested for murder or other homicide crimes in Utah, it is absolutely crucial that you seek representation as soon as possible.  When the allegations are this serious, there isn’t a moment to waste preparing.  Call the law offices of Overson Law at (801) 758-2287 to arrange a free legal consultation with criminal defense attorney Darwin Overson today.