Salt Lake City Murder Defense Attorney

Salt Lake City criminal lawyer

Homicide is a broad term that includes several different offenses.  The most serious types of homicide crimes are murder and aggravated murder, which both involve the intentional and deliberate taking of another human life.

If your parent, child, spouse, or family member has been charged with murder in Salt Lake City, or in other areas of Utah, it is critically important that you speak to a highly experienced Salt Lake murder defense lawyer immediately.  Utah homicide attorney Darwin Overson has more than 16 years of experience handling thousands of cases, and has established a reputation as an aggressive courtroom opponent.  Call the law offices of Overson Law, PLLC right away at (801) 758-2287 to arrange a free and confidential legal consultation.

Salt Lake City Defense Lawyer Handling Felony Homicide Charges in Utah

When an individual intentionally causes the death of another human being, or otherwise causes another person’s death through recklessness or criminal negligence, it is an act of criminal homicide. However, homicide describes many crimes under Utah’s penal code.  Most of these crimes are felonies, and all can have incredibly devastating repercussions for your reputation, your career, your personal relationships, and your most basic and cherished liberties.

No matter what specific offense is involved, all Utah homicide charges demand a skilled and experienced eye, with meticulous attention to detail and comprehensive knowledge of prior cases as well as potential defense strategies.

Was Your Spouse or Family Member Charged with Murder in Utah?

Some of the most common types of criminal homicide are murder, aggravated murder, and manslaughter. While people often use these terms interchangeably, they are defined by different legal parameters, and lead to different consequences for a defendant who is convicted.  If one of your loved ones has been arrested for murder in Salt Lake City, it is vital to have a clear understanding of the acts he or she has been accused of committing.

The crime of murder is defined by Utah Code § 76-5-203. An alleged homicide is charged as murder when a person:

  • Intentionally causes the death of another human being.
  • Accidentally causes the death of another human being, having intended to cause serious injury to that person.
  • Acts in such a way that presents a significant risk of death for another human being, while also “acting [in a way that shows] a depraved indifference to human life.”
  • Causes, or is party to, the death of another human being, while committing or attempting to commit a “predicate offense.”  Utah Code § 76-5-203(1) provides a list of crimes which are considered predicate offenses, including:
    • Burglary
    • Child Abuse
    • Kidnapping
    • Rape
    • Robbery

Additionally, there are some cases where an aggravated murder charge can be reduced to a murder charge.

How is an Aggravated Murder Charge Different? What Are Aggravating Factors?

There are many aggravated crimes in Utah, such as aggravated assault and aggravated robbery.  Regardless of the offense, the aggravated version of a crime is more serious than the non-aggravated version, and thus subject to harsher penalties.

Put simply, aggravated murder is murder plus additional elements, called “aggravating factors.”  Utah Code § 76-5-202, which defines aggravated murder, provides a list of scenarios in which murder is elevated to aggravated murder.  Examples of aggravating factors are listed below.

  • The murder was committed in prison or a correctional institution.
  • Two or more people were attempted targets, or were killed.
  • The actor created a “great risk of death” for an individual other than the intended victim.
  • The murder was committed in exchange for payment or other financial gains, including contract killings.
  • The murder was committed for the purpose of evading arrest, or escaping custody.
  • The murder was committed with a bomb, incendiary device, or poison.
  • The victim was under 14 years of age.
  • The victim was subject to torture, extreme injury, or other cruel or depraved treatment.
  • The victim’s body was at any time dismembered or mutilated, including after death.
  • The victim was a police officer, firefighter, judge, public official, juror, or probation or parole officer, and the defendant knew, or should have known, about the victim’s occupation or position.
  • The murder was committed in order to prevent the victim from giving testimony or acting as a witness.
  • The defendant had previous convictions of crimes including but not limited to:
    • Aggravated Assault
    • Aggravated Burglary
    • Aggravated Murder
    • Aggravated Robbery
    • Kidnapping
    • Murder
    • Rape

Were You Arrested for Manslaughter in Salt Lake City?

Manslaughter and murder are often confused because both involve the loss of human life.  However, they are very different offenses in one important regard: the defendant’s alleged actions prior to and during the act of manslaughter.

Salt Lake City manslaughter charges are governed by Utah Code § 76-5-204. An act of homicide can be charged as manslaughter under state law in either of the following scenarios:

  • The defendant commits the crime of murder but receives an offense reduction.
  • The defendant causes the death of another human being through reckless behavior.

Unlike murder, manslaughter involves acting recklessly, rather than acting with intent to kill or seriously injure.  Recklessness is a component of several other criminal charges, such as reckless driving.

Under the legal definition supplied by Utah Code § 76-2-103(3), a person acts recklessly when he or she knows about, but disregards, a risk that is “substantial and unjustifiable.”  Additionally, “The risk must be of such a nature and degree that… disregard [for the risk] constitutes a [major] deviation from the… care that an ordinary person would exercise,” considering the circumstances “as viewed from the [defendant’s] standpoint.”

Utah Penalties for Murder and Manslaughter: Sentencing, Fines, and Capital Punishment

Different criminal penalties are imposed for murder, aggravated murder, manslaughter, and other homicide offenses in Utah.  These penalties generally include incarceration and expensive fines, and may be supplemented by victim restitution, loss of gun rights, and other consequences.

Virtually all homicide crimes are felonies, which are more serious than misdemeanors.  There are three levels of a felony in Utah: third degree, second degree, and first degree felonies.

Manslaughter is a felony of the second degree, which is punishable by a maximum prison term of 15 years. Convicted offenders may also be fined up to $10,000.

Murder is a first-degree felony.  A defendant who is convicted of murder can be sentenced to a prison term ranging from 15 years to life.  The maximum fine for a first-degree felony is also $10,000.

Aggravated murder is Utah’s only capital felony, meaning it is the only felony in Utah that subjects defendants to the risk of capital punishment (the death penalty).  However, there are also cases where aggravated murder is a non-capital first-degree felony, and the prosecutor does not seek the death penalty.

If the prosecutor is not seeking the death penalty, under Utah Code § 76-3-207.7 the prison sentence for aggravated murder is 25 years to life, including life in prison without the possibility of parole (release).  A fine of up to $10,000 may be imposed for first degree felonies in Utah.

Contact an Experienced Utah Homicide Attorney for a Free Legal Consultation

If a defendant is convicted of nearly any homicide crime in Utah, he or she will receive a felony record. Living with a felony – particularly a felony of a violent nature – poses significant long-term obstacles in many areas of life, including employment, housing, loans, and relationships. In addition to the ramifications of a felony record, a conviction can lead to years, decades, or even a lifetime of incarceration, in addition to enormous fines and restitution.

If you have been charged with murder, manslaughter, or other types of homicide in Utah, it is crucial that you retain the services of a compassionate, non-judgmental, and highly experienced Salt Lake City criminal defense lawyer as soon as possible. Without legal training, it is virtually impossible to successfully defend yourself under pressure in court, especially when the charges are so complex and severe.

When the stakes are this high, you need and deserve the benefit of legal representation that is driven by many years of practical experience.  To discuss your case confidentially in a free legal consultation, call the law offices of Overson Law, PLLC at (801) 758-2287 immediately.  Our law firm handles murder cases in Summit County, Wasatch County, Cache County, Rich County, Morgan County, Tooele County, Box Elder County, and beyond.