Draper, UT Murder Defense Lawyer

Salt Lake criminal defense lawyer

Murder is the most serious crime to be charged with. A murder conviction in Utah could easily result in either life in prison or the death penalty. Even a lesser sentence will have life-long repercussions. You will be a felon for the rest of your life, be subject to large financial penalties, and might have some of your rights taken away forever.

With so much at stake, it is critical that you retain a murder defense lawyer. Discussions with a lawyer are confidential, and they can help you mount the best possible defense for yourself or a loved one in court.

Call our murder defense lawyers at Overson Law at (801) 758-2287 for a confidential case analysis.

Definition of Murder in Draper, UT

Like many states, Utah breaks down murder into a series of categories. Lesser offenses might result in a less severe sentence, while greater ones can elicit the highest penalties. Usually, a homicide charge is worse if the actor committed the crime intentionally rather than accidentally or under stress and when the crime involves prior planning (premeditation).


Utah Code § 76-5-203 states that someone commits murder if they “intentionally or knowingly” cause someone else’s death, intended to cause serious bodily injury to another person through an act “clearly dangerous to human life” and ended up killing someone, or with a “depraved indifference to human life” does something which creates a serious risk of death to another person and kills them.

It is also murder under Utah law if someone recklessly causes the death of a peace officer or military servicemember in uniform while assaulting or interfering with either of those parties.

“Intentionally” means that you killing the person was the intended goal of the action. For example, if you drive up to someone’s house to shoot them, you intend to kill them.

“Knowingly” means that you actually know, or that a reasonable person would know, that your conduct would kill someone. For example, if you shoot someone without the intent to kill them, a reasonable person would know that shooting someone is likely to cause death, so you would still have committed murder “knowingly.”

Aggravated Murder

Aggravated murder is more serious than regular murder. Utah Code § 76-5-202(2) defines aggravated murder as “intentionally or knowingly” killing another person if the actor was in jail when they committed murder, if the actor killed more than one person, or if the actor “created a great risk of death” to someone other than the murder victim.

It is also aggravated murder to kill someone during the commission of a list of crimes described in the statute ranging from robbery to arson to rape.  Other circumstances can also make a murder an aggravated murder, such as killing someone for money or hiring a hitman to do the same.  Finally, a murder charge can be upgraded to aggravated murder if the actor was previously convicted of one of a list of crimes like kidnapping or aggravated sexual assault.

Penalties for Murder in Draper, UT

The types of murder in Utah law have different penalties depending on their severity. Additionally, a more serious murder charge can sometimes be reduced to a less serious one, thereby lowering the penalty for that crime.

Penalties for Murder

The charge for regular murder under Utah law is a first-degree felony with a minimum penalty of 15 years in prison and the possibility of life in prison. Additionally, more serious murder charges with graver penalties can be reduced to this level of penalty.

Penalties for Aggravated Murder

It is possible for an aggravated murder conviction to result in the death penalty. The law makes aggravated murder a capital felony if the prosecution seeks the death penalty. It is a first-degree felony under all other circumstances, but with a special 25-year minimum prison sentence.

If the murderer is under the age of 18, the death penalty cannot be sought. Aggravated murder committed by someone under 18 years old can only be a first-degree felony.

Additionally, the separate offenses such as arson or robbery that can make a murder an aggravated murder are their own separate offenses that must be proven in court beyond a reasonable doubt.

Only a conviction for aggravated murder can result in the death penalty in Utah.

Defenses to Murder in Draper, UT

Defenses to murder generally take the form of affirmative defenses or reduced penalties. An affirmative defense is when you admit that you did the crime but also claim that there is some circumstance that absolves you of guilt. Penalties can also be reduced if there are special mitigating circumstances present. A murder with mitigating circumstances can be reduced to manslaughter, which, while still a serious crime, has lesser penalties attached.

Speak with your lawyer about the best way to defend against a murder charge based on the facts of your case, as these defenses might not apply in every case.


Utah law allows the use of force that could cause serious bodily injury or death if circumstances are present that make an individual believe that their death, or the death of another person, is imminent. A textbook example of adequate provocation would be someone breaking into your house with a gun and threatening to kill you and your family. If, as a result of an altercation with this assailant, they end up dying, adequate provocation could be an affirmative defense to a murder conviction.

Provocation and Emotional Distress

Extreme emotional distress could be considered a subset of adequate provocation. Under Utah law, extreme emotional distress is an overwhelming feeling of anger or shock that renders a reasonable person incapable of rational decision-making or restraint. The classic example of extreme emotional distress in murder cases is one spouse walking in on the other spouse sleeping with another partner. One spouse is enraged, then kills the other.

Provocation is not a defense if enough time has passed to allow a reasonable person to “cool off.” Returning to the cheating spouse example, if the discovering spouse storms off to their car to fetch a gun and then shoots the other spouse, this defense will not be available because the murderous spouse would have had enough time for a reasonable person to “cool off” during their walk to the car.

Provocation can potentially reduce a murder charge to a manslaughter charge.

Special Mitigation for Mental Conditions

The special mitigation for a mental condition is when someone commits murder without any mitigating factors present but is under the delusion that those factors are, in fact, present. The defendant’s actions must still be reasonable if the delusion were reality.


The insanity defense is defined by statute and includes mental “illness” and “disability” that can remove the required intent for murder. While mental conditions are not defenses, they can mitigate murder charges to less serious ones.

Contact Our Murder Defense Lawyers for a Free Case Analysis

Reach out to our Draper, UT lawyers at Overson Law at (801) 758-2287 to discuss your case.