Kidnapping is a serious offense in Utah. Once a kidnapper harms a victim, the State of Utah may impose the highest criminal penalty available on the offender. With or without harm, committing a crime like kidnapping will result in life-changing consequences for the offender. If you were charged with kidnapping another person, you should contact an experienced Salt Lake City kidnapping defense lawyer immediately. With over 16 years of criminal law experience, Darwin Overson will work tirelessly to fight your kidnapping charges. Darwin understands how frightening a kidnapping charge is, and he is here to help guide you through Utah’s criminal justice system. Overson Law is here to explain how kidnapping charges change if a victim is injured in Utah.
The Difference Between Kidnapping and Aggravated Kidnapping
Utah has three different official offenses for kidnapping: kidnapping, child kidnapping, and aggravated kidnapping. An individual who kidnaps another person but does not cause harm to that person will likely be charged with kidnapping. Specifically, Utah Criminal Code §76-5-301 lists the requirements for being charged with kidnapping. This law states that a defendant will be convicted of kidnapping if they commit the following actions “intentionally or knowingly” without the victim’s consent and “without authority of law”:
- “[D]etains the victim for any substantial period of time”
- “[R]estrains the victim in circumstances exposing the victim to risk of bodily injury”
- Forces the victim into “involuntary servitude”
- Takes the victim without the consent of their parent or legal guardian if the victim is 14-17 years old
- Transports the victim “any substantial distance or across a state line”
If you kidnap a victim who is “mentally incompetent” you can still be charged with kidnapping if by taking them without their parent or legal guardian’s consent.
Utah Code § 76-5-301.1 covers the requirements for child kidnapping. This crime specifically punishes kidnapping children under 14.
Kidnapping becomes a more serious offense once the kidnapper injures the victim. Utah Criminal Code §76-5-302 states that you can be charged with aggravated kidnapping if you harm or terrorize the person you kidnapped. It does not matter if the defendant did not succeed in their attempts to injure the victim; they can still be charged with aggravated kidnapping.
If you have injured a victim in the midst of a kidnapping, you should retain an experienced criminal defense lawyer today.
Penalties for Breaking Utah’s Kidnapping Laws
As mentioned above, the penalties for kidnapping change once a victim is injured by the kidnapper. All three types of kidnapping are felony offenses in Utah, meaning a defendant will likely receive at least one year in prison if convicted. There are four grades of felonies in Utah: third degree felony, second degree felony, first degree felony, and capital felony. Each felony grade carries different sentences and criminal fines.
If the victim is not injured in the commission of the crime, kidnapping is a second degree felony. In Utah, second degree felonies carry a possible prison sentence of one to 15 years and criminal fines of up to $10,000. Generally, kidnapping offenses cannot be charged as anything lower than a second degree felony unless the court finds a valid reason to reduce the penalty in “the interests of justice.” This shows how extreme a kidnapping offense is in Utah.
Once the offender injures or attempts to injure a victim, they will be charged with aggravated kidnapping, a first degree felony. First degree felonies carry a possible penalty of five years to life in prison and up to $10,000 in fines. If the jury finds that a victim sustained “serious bodily injury” during the kidnapping, the offender is more likely to receive a penalty of life in prison without parole. This is the same penalty used for murder charges in Salt Lake City.
There are a few defenses to kidnapping in Utah. Utah Criminal Code §76-5-305 states that a defendant will have a legal defense to kidnapping if they reasonably believed that:
- “[T]he conduct was necessary to protect any person from imminent bodily injury or death”
- “[T]he detention or restraint was authorized by law”
Additionally, there is a legal defense if the alleged victim was under the age of 18 or was “mentally incompetent,” and the offender believed the legal guardian would have given consent to taking the alleged victim.
Salt Lake City Criminal Defense Attorneys Can Fight Your Kidnapping Charges
If you or a family member was charged with kidnapping, you should consult with an experienced Salt Lake City criminal defense lawyer today. A kidnapping offense is not a joke, and the assistance of a criminal attorney like Darwin Overson is necessary to present a solid defense. Overson & Bugden will work tirelessly to fight your kidnapping case. To schedule a free consultation, call us at (801) 758-2287, or reach us online.