Being charged with murder is a frightening experience that leaves suspects and their family members feeling lost, hopeless, and overwhelmed. While it’s perfectly understandable to react with panic and anxiety, remember that you don’t have to face this legal challenge alone. The compassionate criminal defense attorneys of Overson Law, LLC are here to guide you through Utah’s court system, investigate the evidence against you, explore possible defense strategies, and most importantly, fight to have your charges dismissed or lessened.
Our accomplished legal team combines years of experience handling a wide variety of homicide offenses, including murder, aggravated murder, and manslaughter. Attorney Darwin Overson has handled thousands of motions. We take a tactical approach, personalizing tailor-made defense strategies to every case we handle, and are dedicated to providing aggressive representation to South Jordan residents — no matter how complex or serious the allegations.
When the charges are this severe, you can’t afford to delay. To start discussing your situation in a completely free, completely confidential case evaluation, call South Jordan homicide lawyer Darwin Overson right away at (801) 758-2287.
The Difference Between Murder and Manslaughter in Utah
Utah recognizes many different homicide offenses, all of which carry separate definitions and penalties. While terms like murder and manslaughter are sometimes used interchangeably in casual conversation, in the legal world they are completely different crimes. As a defendant, it is tremendously important to have a basic understanding of the charges against you. With that in mind, let’s go over the key differences between Utah’s different types of homicide charges:
- Grading — First degree felony.
- Definition — Intentionally causing death.
- Aggravated Murder:
- Grading — Capital felony or first degree felony.
- Definition — Intentionally causing death under specific circumstances, such as committing murder while trying to avoid being arrested, while incarcerated, or for financial gain.
- Grading — Second degree felony.
- Definition — Causing death recklessly (rather than intentionally). Manslaughter can also be charged where initial murder charges are reduced.
- Vehicular Homicide:
- Grading — Second or third degree felony.
- Definition — Causing death via car, motorcycle, truck, train, plane, bus, or other vehicle. These charges become more severe if the defendant was committing DUI and/or had a high BAC (Blood Alcohol Content) at the time of the incident.
- Negligent Homicide:
- Grading — Class A Misdemeanor.
- Definition — Negligence means the defendant did not take the normal steps or precautions which a reasonable person would take under the same circumstances. For example, if a person is killed because a mechanic fails to perform routine maintenance, that mechanic could possibly be considered negligent.
- Child Abuse Homicide:
- Grading — First or second degree felony.
- Definition — The victim was younger than 18 years of age.
- Homicide by Assault:
- Grading — Third degree felony.
- Definition — The victim passed away due to injuries sustained during an assault. The defendant deliberately attacked the victim, but the resulting death was not intentional.
Capital Punishment and Homicide Penalties in South Jordan
It’s a common misconception that capital punishment or the death penalty can be sentenced for any murder conviction. In reality, Utah permits capital punishment only in cases where the defendant is convicted of aggravated murder, and not all aggravated murder cases lead to capital punishment. It is rare for Utah prosecutors to push for the death penalty, with the courts often seeking life imprisonment instead.
Depending on how your offense is graded, you could be facing the following maximum penalties:
- Misdemeanor, Class A:
- Fine — $2,500
- Sentence — 1 year, jail
- Felony, Third Degree:
- Fine — $5,000
- Sentence — 5 years, prison
- Felony, Second Degree:
- Fine — $10,000
- Sentence — 15 years, prison
- Felony, First Degree:
- Fine — $10,000
- Sentence — Life, prison
Once again, the penalties noted above represent the maximums. It may be possible to lessen your charges and their potential penalties if it can be established that mitigating factors played a role in the alleged crime.
Mitigating factors are essentially the opposite of aggravating factors. Aggravating factors make sentencing worse, while mitigating factors work in the defendant’s favor. The Utah Code allows the following three homicide defenses under Section 76-5-205.5 (“Special mitigation reducing the level of criminal homicide offense”):
- The defendant drank alcohol or took drugs involuntarily, without knowledge or consent. If the defendant deliberately chose to drink or ingest drugs, this defense will not hold up in court.
- The defendant committed the alleged crime while in a delusional state brought on by mental illness. The defendant’s actions must be deemed objectively reasonable based on the delusion(s) he or she was experiencing at the time.
- The defendant committed the alleged crime while in a state of “extreme emotional distress for which there is a reasonable explanation or excuse,” not counting distress brought on by the defendant’s own actions or conduct.
If one of these defenses can be proven beyond a reasonable doubt in court, the charges can be brought down by one level. For example, aggravated murder would be reduced to murder, while murder would be reduced to manslaughter (attempted or otherwise).
Trust a South Jordan Murder Defense Lawyer with Your Case
If you or someone you love is facing any of the above charges, you need to act fast. To schedule a private legal consultation free of charge, call Darwin Overson at (801) 758-2287 today. Our lines are staffed around the clock, and we are able to make holding center and jail visits in emergency situations.