Salt Lake City Murder Defense Attorney

Salt Lake criminal defense 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. Salt Lake City murder defense 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 & Bugden right away at (801) 758-2287 to arrange a free and confidential legal consultation.

Types of Criminal Homicide Charges in Salt Lake City

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.

The type of homicide offense you are charged with may depend on your criminal intent or culpability level. Generally, there are four levels of criminal intent. A defendant may have acted intentionally, knowingly, recklessly, or negligently. Intent may range from acting on purpose to cause harm to causing harm by mistake or by accident. While all homicide charges are serious, charges that involve an intentional act rather than an accident or a mistake will be treated more harshly.

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. Reach out to our Salt Lake City murder defense lawyers to discuss your case.

Was Your Spouse or Family Member Charged with Murder in Salt Lake City?

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 they have 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. To discuss your case and any homicide charges you may be facing, call our Salt Lake City murder defense attorneys.

How Aggravated Murder Charges Are Different in Salt Lake City

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

This list of aggravating factors is not exhaustive. Aggravating factors will be unique to your situation and may vary from case to case. Speak with our Salt Lake City murder defense lawyers about any aggravating factors surrounding your case for more information.

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. Our Salt Lake City murder defense lawyers can explain the difference in further detail.

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 so significant and so severe that to disregard it would be a gross deviation from an ordinary individual’s standard of care. Courts will usually consider the circumstances from the perspective of the defendant.

Penalties for Murder and Manslaughter in Salt Lake City

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. To fully understand the potential penalties associated with your charges, talk to our Salt Lake City murder defense attorneys.

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.

Unintentional Criminal Homicide in Salt Lake City

Homicide is not always an intentional act. There are many cases of defendants responsible for someone else’s death even though they had no intention of causing anyone harm. As mentioned above, homicide is sometimes the result of reckless behavior and occurs when a person disregards a substantial risk. However, sometimes homicide is a result of the defendant’s negligence.

Negligence and recklessness sound very similar, but do not be confused. Recklessness and negligence both involve a significant risk. However, the way the defendant perceives the risk is the key difference. For recklessness, the defendant is aware of the risk and chooses to disregard it. For negligence, the defendant is never aware of the risk in the first place. Their failure to recognize such a serious risk to safety is what makes their actions wrong.

Negligence is a lower standard of culpability, so negligent homicide is often treated a bit more leniently than other types of homicide. Negligent homicide can be found under § 75-6-206 of the Utah Criminal Code and is classified as a class A misdemeanor. Common cases of negligent homicide involve car accidents that result in the death of another person.

If you have been charged with negligent homicide, contact our Salt Lake City murder defense attorneys for assistance.

Homicide by Vehicle in Salt Lake City

As previously mentioned, homicides by vehicle are not uncommon and may be charged as negligent homicide. However, under certain circumstances, homicide by vehicle will be treated much more seriously and charged as a felony rather than a misdemeanor.

Motor vehicles are incredibly dangerous machines. They are extremely heavy and are capable of reaching dangerously high rates of speed. Car accidents are pretty common and unfortunately so are automobile-related deaths. If alcohol or drugs are involved in an automobile-related death, you could be charged under § 76-5-207, automobile homicide.

Automobile homicide is different from negligent homicide because of the presence of drugs or alcohol in our system at the time of the car accident. To be convicted, you must have operated a vehicle in a negligent manner that caused the death of someone else while also under the influence of drugs or alcohol. A defendant must have

  • A B.A.C. of at least .05 grams at the time of subsequent chemical testing,
  • Been intoxicated with any drugs, alcohol, or combination of the two that would render them incapable of driving safely, or
  • A B.A.C. of at least .05 grams at the time of the accident.

The presence of alcohol or drugs in your system is a pretty severe aggravating factor. Automobile homicide is often charged as a second-degree felony. If you were involved in a car accident that caused another’s death, please call our Salt Lake City murder defense lawyers as soon as possible.

Criminal Homicide and Children in Salt Lake City

A homicide involving a child victim will always be met with great outrage by both the public and government officials. When a child’s death results from child abuse, the offense will be charged differently than ordinary murder or manslaughter. The charge of child abuse homicide can be found under § 76-5-208 of the Utah Criminal Code. While child abuse homicide is not usually an intentional act, the fact that the victim is a child and abusive factors are present makes for a very serious criminal charge.

Child abuse homicide is different than aggravated murder because child abuse homicide, by definition, occurs under circumstances that do not amount to aggravated murder. Additionally, factors that indicate the child died as a result of abuse must be present. The abuse can be either reckless or negligent. However, reckless abuse will lead to first-degree felony charges for child abuse homicide. If the abuse was negligent rather than reckless, the defendant may be charged with a second-degree felony.

The charge is unique because it will only apply to situations where child abuse is involved. If a child is murdered under different circumstances, like a car accident, it is not child abuse homicide. Keep in mind that the abuse can be reckless or negligent. While a reckless person is someone who chooses to disregard a substantial risk, a negligent person does not know about the risk to begin with. This means that a defendant does not necessarily have to be fully aware of the abusive conditions that caused the child’s death. Reach out to our Salt Lake City murder defense lawyers for help if you face child abuse homicide charges.

Contact Our Experienced Salt Lake City Homicide Attorneys for a Free Legal Consultation

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.

To discuss your case confidentially in a free legal consultation, call the law offices of Overson & Bugden 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.