Clearfield, UT Manslaughter Lawyer

Salt Lake criminal defense lawyer

When someone is killed in an act of violence, the justice system tends to react swiftly and often harshly. Not all instances of homicide are first-degree murder, and many defendants are charged with somewhat lesser offenses, like manslaughter.

While murder often involves intent to kill, manslaughter does not. Many manslaughter cases often involve reckless behavior from defendants rather than an intent to kill, and defendants tend to face lighter penalties compared to those convicted of murder. The best way to defend yourself against manslaughter charges depends on the nature of your case. Your attorney can help you prove you lacked the necessary intent, challenge the evidence, and highlight various mitigating factors that might convince a judge and jury to be more lenient. While defendants are not required to hire lawyers, it is in your best interest to hire an experienced defense attorney.

If you are facing criminal charges, contact our manslaughter lawyers immediately by calling Overson Law, PLLC at (801) 758-2287.

How Manslaughter is Legally Defined in Clearfield, UT

Murder tends to apply to intentional killings, while manslaughter often comes up in cases of unintentional killings. As such, charges and penalties for manslaughter tend to be less harsh than those for murder. Even so, manslaughter charges are nothing to joke about, and defendants risk serious time behind bars.

Manslaughter Charges

Manslaughter charges are defined under Utah Code § 76-5-205(2). They are usually assessed under one of three circumstances.

First, you may be charged with manslaughter if you are accused of recklessly causing the death of another person. “Reckless” does not mean “intentional” and may include inherently dangerous behavior that the actor continues with despite the obvious risks.

Second, manslaughter might be charged if you know someone intends to commit suicide and you intentionally help them do so. For example, if you know someone who wants to end their life and give them a dangerous combination of pills to swallow, you may be charged with manslaughter.

Third and finally, manslaughter charges may apply in cases where a defendant is charged with murder, but the charges are reduced under Utah Code § 76-5-203(4). This law states that murder charges may be reduced if the killing occurred because the defendant reasonably believed their actions were justified, but their actions turned out to not be legally justifiable under the circumstances. An example of this might be someone who shoots another in self-defense because they honestly yet mistakenly believed the victim was attacking them.

Under Utah Code § 76-5-203(3)(b), a trier of fact (i.e., the judge or jury) who finds that the elements of murder have been proved beyond a reasonable doubt but also finds that special mitigation has been proven by a preponderance of the evince may enter a judgment for manslaughter instead of murder. Under Utah Code § 76-5-205.5(2), special mitigation may include reasonable provocation.

Manslaughter Penalties

Penalties for manslaughter are not as severe as they are for murder charges, but they are still nothing to joke around about. According to Utah Code § § 76-5-205(3)-(4), manslaughter may be charged as a second-degree felony. Such a felony may be met with a prison term of no less than 1 year but no more than 15 years under Utah Code § 76-3-203(2). If manslaughter charges are assessed in connection with a car accident, the defendant may also have their driver’s license revoked.

Possible prison time for manslaughter tends to span a somewhat broad range of years. Where your case falls on this spectrum often depends on evidence and how the court weighs mitigating and aggravating factors.

Possible Defense Strategies for People Facing Manslaughter Charges in Clearfield, UT

No single “best” way to mount a defense in a criminal trial exists. The best defense must be tailored to the unique factors surrounding your case. It is important to review every little detail of the case with our manslaughter attorneys so they can determine how to approach your defense strategies.

Challenging the Required Intent

One method of defending yourself against manslaughter charges is to challenge the level of intent required by law. A person may be charged with manslaughter if they recklessly caused the death of another person. What if you believe your actions were not reckless?

For example, suppose you are accused of recklessly causing a car accident that took the life of another driver. Maybe you were not reckless at all. Recklessness involves a disregard for safety in the face of obvious, unreasonable risks. Ordinary negligence, which is common in car accidents, is not enough to support manslaughter charges but might lead to negligent homicide charges in some cases.

The same tactic may apply in cases where the defendant is accused of intentionally helping someone commit suicide. Your actions must be intentional, and you must know that the victim intended to commit suicide. Perhaps you supplied the victim with pills, but you did not know of their plans to end their life. Maybe you thought you were helping them get the medicine they could not obtain on their own because they could not afford to see a doctor.

Challenging the Evidence

One tactic that should almost always be explored is challenging the evidence against you. If the police seized evidence from your home, did they have a search warrant? Warrants are not always necessary, and certain exceptions to the rule exist. However, if there was no warrant and the police cannot come up with a valid exception, the evidence they seized might be tainted and should be kept out of your trial. If key pieces of evidence are excluded this way, the case against you might totally fall apart.

Is there even enough evidence to warrant criminal charges or secure a conviction? Sometimes, the evidence is legal but insufficient. Prosecutors must prove their cases beyond a reasonable doubt, which is an incredibly high burden. If it is clear from the start that prosecutors lack enough evidence, we can ask the judge to dismiss the case.

Highlighting Mitigating Factors

Mitigating factors might be anything that makes you look good to a jury or judge. If you are found guilty, we might use these factors to convince the judge to impose a more lenient sentence.

For example, maybe you are charged with manslaughter related to a car accident. The prosecutor would need to show how you recklessly caused the death of another. A finding of recklessness is enough for a manslaughter conviction. While your actions might indeed be reckless, recklessness may be assessed on a spectrum, at least for sentencing purposes. Perhaps your actions were reckless but not shocking, egregious, or callous. A judge might be inclined to impose a much lighter sentence. This is more common when minor mistakes on the road cause fatal accidents.

Speak to Our Clearfield, UT Manslaughter Lawyers for Help Immediately.

If you are facing criminal charges, contact our manslaughter lawyers immediately by calling Overson Law, PLLC at (801) 758-2287.