It is hard to overstate the seriousness of a homicide charge in Bountiful. A homicide charge can have a devasting impact on the course of an individual’s entire life.
Thus, it is critical to get help from our homicide defense lawyers so that your rights are protected throughout the criminal justice process. Utah has multiple classifications for homicide, which are graded according to severity of the crime. In many cases, the type of homicide charged can turn on just a few important facts.
For a free case review, speak with our homicide defense attorneys at Overson Law, PLLC by calling us today at (801) 758-2287.
How Homicide is Defined in Bountiful, UT
Homicide is, without a doubt, the most serious crime a person can be charged with in Bountiful. Homicide is defined in Utah as the intentional taking of another person’s life or causing another person’s death by a reckless or negligent act. However, homicide cases are more complex than that as Utah has several categories of homicide.
Which type of homicide an individual is charged with will depend on their intent when the murder occurred. Criminal intent essentially means what the person was intending to happen at the time of the homicide and is what much of the arguments are centered around in a homicide case. Our homicide defense attorneys can review your case to determine if you were improperly charged based on your intention during the incident. The highest level of intent is when a person acts for the purpose of taking another person’s life and ranges to not intending the death at all.
Homicide convictions carry very serious consequences, regardless of which type someone is charged with. Even a homicide you did not intend to commit could be punished with years in prison. Utah still also prosecutes capital offenses, meaning that a person charged with homicide could face the death penalty depending on the circumstances of the murder.
Types of Homicide Cases Our Defense Attorneys Handle in Bountiful, UT
Homicide is a legal term that covers a broad range of different lethal situations. Almost all homicides are charged as felonies that carry very significant penalties. The following are the most common Homicide charges defendants face in Bountiful:
Under Utah Code § 76-5-203(2), A person is guilty of homicide if they intentionally or knowingly cause the death of another person. These crimes are usually premeditated, meaning the person acted with the purpose of causing the other person’s death. However, an individual can be charged with homicide if they intend to cause serious bodily harm but instead cause the death of someone by an act that was obviously dangerous to life. For instance, if someone shot another person attempting to wound them but instead killed them, the fact that they only intended to wound would not prevent them from being charged with homicide.
Homicide is classified as a first-degree felony, the most serious. A conviction of first-degree homicide can carry a sentence of 15 years to life and a fine of $10,000. However, these penalties could be much harsher if there are aggravating circumstances in the case.
If the circumstances of the homicide are particularly heinous, the defendant will usually be charged with aggravated murder under Utah Code § 76-5-202. The law contains many factors that will upgrade a homicide to an aggravated homicide. For instance, if an inmate kills a correctional officer, or two or more people are killed or attempted targets, an aggravated homicide will be charged. The homicide will also be upgraded if a person other than the intended target is killed (an innocent victim) or if the murder was done for financial gain. Other factors include murders committed by bombings, if a police officer or other public servant was murdered, if the victim was under 14, and many others.
Importantly, Utah still employs the death penalty for convictions in capital cases. Aggravated homicide is the only capital offense in Utah, and prosecutors can choose to pursue the death penalty if aggravating circumstances are present in the case. However, prosecutors do not often choose this often. Instead, most defendants convicted of aggravated homicide will face life in prison without the possibility of parole. In some cases, the sentence might range from 25 years in prison to life.
Predicate Offense Homicide
A person can also be charged with homicide without necessarily committing the act themselves if they caused or were a party to another person’s death while committing a different felony. According to Utah Code § 76-5-203(1), a person can be charged with homicide even without intending the other person’s death if they were in the act of committing a “predicate offense,” which includes burglary, robbery, and rape. A person can also be charged under this law if a death occurs through child abuse or kidnapping.
Manslaughter is charged when a person does not intend the death of another person but causes it through their criminal disregard of the risks involved in their conduct. Per Utah Code § 76-5-205, a defendant is guilty of manslaughter if they recklessly cause the death of another person. Recklessness is worse than negligence since the person is aware of the danger that their actions are presenting and chooses to act anyway. In a manslaughter case, the risk is unjustifiable.
In some cases, circumstances might call for homicide charges to be reduced to manslaughter. For instance, if a person believed they had the right to use deadly force in an altercation when they were in fact not justified, their charges might be reduced to manslaughter. Penalties for a manslaughter conviction include one to 15 years imprisonment and up to $10,000 in fines.
Negligence is a lower level of criminal liability than recklessness because the person is not aware of the danger their actions are creating, while a person acting recklessly is fully aware that their conduct could cause serious harm. Thus, criminal negligence is typically punished more leniently than manslaughter. These cases can be very challenging since the line between negligence and criminal negligence can be highly subjective. Under Utah Code § 76-5-206, criminal negligence is charged as a class A misdemeanor and punishable with up to one year in jail and up to $2,500 in fines.
Lastly, Utah also has additional laws for homicides caused by vehicular accidents. Per Utah Code § 76-5-207 and § 76-5-207.5, drivers can be charged with vehicular homicide if they cause the death of another person while driving under the influence of alcohol or drugs or texting or using a handheld smartphone while driving. Vehicular homicides are very serious and can be charged as third and second-degree felonies. Punishment includes imprisonment from one to fifteen years and up to $10,000 in fines.
Our Bountiful, UT Homicide Defense Lawyers Can Help
Call Overson Law, PLLC at (801) 758-2287 for a free case assessment with our homicide defense attorneys.