Manslaughter is a category of criminal homicide in Utah and is perhaps one of the most serious charges that can be imposed. The death of another person is always taken extremely seriously and is thoroughly investigated by the authorities. Defendants charged with manslaughter may feel as if the entire world is against them. It is crucial to understand how you and your attorney can fight these charges when it feels like nobody else is on your side. Read on to learn more about how to fight manslaughter charges in Utah from our Utah criminal defense attorneys at Overson Law, PLLC.
What Constitutes Manslaughter in Utah?
Under § 76-5-205(2) of the Utah Criminal Code, manslaughter is defined as a subset of criminal homicide and occurs under certain conditions. Manslaughter occurs when you recklessly cause someone else’s death, intentionally aid someone in a suicide, or commit a homicide that would otherwise be murder but is downgraded. A criminal homicide could be downgraded to manslaughter when the defendant committed the killing under the mistaken belief their actions were justifiable. It could also be downgraded because of the defendant’s mental illness or provocation by the victim.
Manslaughter often requires reckless intent on the part of the defendant. The intent required for manslaughter is different than murder or other forms of criminal homicide because it means that manslaughter is usually unintentional. Even though manslaughter is a lesser offense compared to homicide, it is a second-degree felony. However, just because you did not intend to kill someone does not mean you will not be held responsible. However, your intent is only one element we can use to fight your charges.
Disputing the Criminal Intent Required for Manslaughter
Manslaughter requires a showing of recklessness for a defendant to be convicted. According to the Utah Criminal Code, recklessness is when someone is aware that their actions, or the circumstances surrounding their actions, present a significant and unjustifiable risk. An ordinary person in the same situation would not take such a risk. The risk is so substantial that disregarding it would be a gross deviation from the standard of care an ordinary person would take.
To defend you against manslaughter charges, it is possible that we could argue that your intent only rose to the level of criminal negligence. Criminal negligence sounds very similar to reckless with one crucial difference. Negligence also involves incredibly serious and unjustifiable risk, but the defendant is unaware of the risk. Failing to recognize the risk where an ordinary person would is what makes negligence criminal.
We could argue that the risk associated with your case was not clear to you at the time of the incident. If successful, we could have your charges downgraded from manslaughter to negligent homicide. Negligent homicide is a class A misdemeanor and carries much lighter penalties than manslaughter.
Fighting Vehicular Manslaughter Charges in Utah
Manslaughter is often associated with car accidents. It is not unusual for people to be charged with vehicular manslaughter. While the charges are more or less the same as ordinary manslaughter, the investigation and evidence will look very different.
Gathering the details of a car accident can be tricky because they happen so fast. Drivers are often left with very little time to react to an impending accident. At the moment of the collision, it can be unclear who exactly is to blame for the accident and resulting death. People tend to follow gut reactions during accidents because there is no time to weigh the pros and cons. If you are charged with vehicular homicide, we can argue that your actions were not reckless or negligent under the circumstances and that you reacted as an ordinary person would.
For example, if you were driving at night and swerved to avoid a pothole or an animal that darted into the road, and the driver of another car was driving with their headlights off so you could not see them, the resulting accident might not be your fault. We could argue you swerved because you did not see any oncoming traffic and felt it was safe.
Challenging the Evidence Against You for Manslaughter Charges in Utah
During an investigation for manslaughter charges, the police will likely conduct searches and seizures of evidence and question you after arresting you. While these events are to be expected for a criminal investigation, the police are required to follow strict protocols in order to avoid violating your rights. If your rights are violated, any evidence or incriminating information obtained by the police could be challenged.
For example, the police may conduct a search of your home or vehicle for evidence related to the incident. If this is the case, the police are required to have a valid search warrant. If you believe some evidence was taken without a warrant or under an invalid warrant, we can challenge that evidence. A motion to suppress can keep illegally seized evidence out of court so it cannot be used against you.
Similarly, when the police conduct questioning after arresting you, they are required to inform you of your Miranda rights, including your right to remain silent and your right to have an attorney present during questioning. If they fail to inform you of these rights or unfairly pressure you to waive these rights, we can challenge the information they obtain. Anything incriminating you said to the police could be kept out of court.
Contact Our Utah Criminal Defense Lawyers for Help with Manslaughter Charges
If you are facing manslaughter charges in Utah, you are looking at some incredibly serious penalties. You need a qualified attorney to defend your rights and protect you in court. Call our Ogden criminal defense attorneys at Overson Law, PLLC. At (801) 758-2287. Ask our staff about scheduling a free legal consultation about your manslaughter charges.