Being charged with homicide or learning a loved one was arrested for murder is a very frightening and stressful experience. It is natural to feel anxiety, panic, and dread, but know that you don’t have to face this difficult situation alone.
At the law offices of Overson Law, LLC our West Jordan criminal defense lawyers are highly experienced defending clients against homicide charges, including capital cases. We offer free first evaluations for new clients, and you can feel confident that all of our consultations will be kept confidential. Our phone lines are staffed around the clock each day of the week, and we are prepared to make jail visits in emergency situations.
If you’ve been charged with homicide in West Jordan, time is of the essence. To schedule your free appointment, call attorney Darwin Overson right away at (801) 758-2287.
Understanding Different Types of Homicide Charges in West Jordan
Being charged with homicide can mean many different things, because there are actually eight different offenses identified within the Utah Code under Chapter 5 (Offenses Against the Person). The more you understand about the specific charges against you, the better prepared you will be when your court date arrives. Some charges are more serious than others, and some are even classified as misdemeanors.
- Murder — First degree felony. Murder means the defendant intentionally caused another person’s death.
- Aggravated Murder — Capital felony or noncapital first degree felony. Murder becomes “aggravated” when committed under certain circumstances, such as while the defendant is incarcerated or is trying to evade an arrest.
- Manslaughter — Second degree felony. Murder charges can be reduced to manslaughter charges if it can be proven that the defendant caused death recklessly rather than intentionally. Recklessness involves “willful or wanton disregard for the safety” of others, but isn’t the same as deliberately causing death.
- Vehicular Homicide — Second or third degree felony. Despite its technical name of “automobile homicide,” even trains, boats, and planes are subject. Sentencing becomes harsher if DUI (Driving Under the Influence) or a high BAC (Blood Alcohol Content) were involved. Vehicular homicide involving the use of a cell phone has its own legal statute, but the potential penalties are identical.
- Negligent Homicide — Class A Misdemeanor. In a legal context, negligence means the defendant did not exercise the same precautions or care standards that a reasonable person would expect or exercise under the same circumstances. For example, a doctor failing to sterilize instruments could be deemed negligent.
- Child Abuse Homicide — First or second degree felony, charged when the victim was under 18 years old.
- Homicide by Assault — Third degree felony, charged when the defendant accidentally causes death through intentionally injuring a victim.
Let Our West Jordan Homicide Defense Lawyers Fight for You
In contrast to aggravating factors which make a sentence worse, mitigating factors can lighten a sentence by reducing the offense grading. The Utah Code provides three basic scenarios where mitigating circumstances can lighten a homicide charge:
- The defendant committed the homicide because he or she was in a delusional state brought on by mental illness. In order for this defense to be successful, it must be proven that the defendant’s acts were reasonable in the context of the delusion(s).
- The defendant ingested drugs, alcohol, or other “volatile substances” without his or her knowledge or consent. This defense will not work if the defendant knowingly decided to drink or take drugs.
- The defendant was under “extreme emotional distress.” While this defense is commonly referenced in the media, it must be proven that there was a “reasonable explanation or excuse” in order to be successful. Under Utah’s legal definition, emotional distress excludes distress that was mainly brought on by the defendant him- or herself.
Penalties and Sentencing
Capital punishment is a possibility for convictions of aggravated murder. However, it is extremely rare for prosecuting attorneys to push for capital punishment in the state of Utah, with only seven instances since the 1970s.
Utah imposes the following maximum penalties for noncapital cases:
- Class A Misdemeanor:
- Sentence — 1 year
- Fine — $2,500
- Third Degree Felony:
- Sentence — 5 years
- Fine — $5,000
- Second Degree Felony:
- Sentence — 15 years
- Fine — $10,000
- First Degree Felony:
- Sentence — Life
- Fine — $10,000
Remember, the penalties noted above represent the maximums. It may be possible to significantly reduce your penalties, or to have your charges dismissed altogether.
To set up a free and confidential legal consultation with an experienced West Jordan homicide lawyer, call Overson Law, LLC at (801) 758-2287 today.