Being charged with murder is an extremely stressful and upsetting ordeal. After an arrest, there are no doubt many questions on your mind. What sort of penalties could you be facing? What sort of defenses exist for the allegations against you? Are there any special circumstances that could reduce your charges?
When you’re going through a legal matter this serious, it is extremely important that you have professional support from a qualified, dedicated, and compassionate representative. At Overson Law, LLC our West Valley City criminal defense lawyers have years of experience handling a wide variety of homicide cases. We are unwavering in our commitment to providing clients with aggressive and personalized defense strategies for even the most serious of crimes.
To start discussing your situation in a free and confidential legal consultation, call attorney Darwin Overson right away at (801) 758-2287.
Different Types of Homicide Charges in West Valley, UT
Homicide is an umbrella term which can actually refer to several crimes with very different definitions and penalties. A conviction of some forms of homicide can lead to capital punishment, while others are categorized as misdemeanors.
Homicide may refer to the following offenses:
- Aggravated Murder – Found at Section 76-5-202. Aggravated murder can be classified as a capital felony (subject to capital punishment), or as a noncapital first degree felony. Aggravated murder involves murder under specific circumstances, such as committing murder while in jail, for financial gain, or to avoid being arrested.
- Child Abuse Homicide – Found at Section 76-5-208. Child abuse homicide refers to victims younger than 18 years old, and can be categorized as a first degree or second degree felony depending on whether the death was caused by recklessness, negligence, or other factors.
- Homicide by Assault – Found at Section 76-5-209. Homicide by assault is a third degree felony. This may be charged if the defendant causes death while deliberately trying to cause injury.
- Manslaughter – Found at Section 76-5-205. Manslaughter may be charged if the defendant recklessly causes death, or is initially charged with murder but the charges are reduced. Manslaughter is a second degree felony.
- Murder – Found at Section 76-5-203. Unlike manslaughter, murder involves deliberately (not recklessly) causing death. Murder can also be charged if the defendant was involved in another crime at the same time, such as kidnapping or robbery. This charge is graded as a first degree felony.
- Negligent Homicide – Found at Section 76-5-206. This may be charged if the defendant accidentally causes death through negligence, i.e. failure to exercise the normal standard of care. Negligent homicide is a Class A Misdemeanor.
- (Automobile) Vehicular Homicide – Found at Section 76-5-207. This can be either a third or second degree felony. Vehicular homicide specifically involving a cell phone (i.e. distracted driving) is its own separate offense under Section 76-5-207.5, but is also graded as a second or third degree felony.
Criminal Penalties and Capital Punishment
The state of Utah imposes very tough penalties for offenders convicted of homicide, including capital punishment in some rare cases. While capital punishment may be called for in cases involving aggravated murder, many capital cases are penalized with life sentences instead. It is important to try to remain as calm as possible and not to panic while your case is underway. Our attorneys are here to help support and guide you through the court process.
Penalties for homicide convictions vary depending on the severity of the crime. Utah imposes the following maximum fines and sentences for crimes based on grading as follows:
- First Degree Felony:
- Fine — $10,000
- Sentence — Life
- Second Degree Felony:
- Fine — $10,000
- Sentence — 15 years
- Third Degree Felony:
- Fine — $5,000
- Sentence — 5 years
- Class A Misdemeanor:
- Fine — $2,500
- Sentence — 1 year
Many people are familiar with the idea of “aggravating factors,” or factors which can make sentencing worse, such as repeat offenses or child endangerment. Conversely, mitigating factors are factors which can make sentencing lighter and work in the defendant’s favor. It may be possible that mitigating factors play a role in your case.
Mitigating factors in criminal homicide offenses are discussed in Section 76-5-205.5 of the Utah Code. Section 76-5-205.5 holds that mitigation exists for the defendant in the following scenarios:
- The defendant was delusional at the time of the alleged crime because of a mental illness, and his or her acts were justified and reasonable based on those delusions.
- The defendant was acting “under the influence of extreme emotional distress.” This must be deemed justifiable from a reasonable person’s point of view, and does not include emotional distress brought on by the defendant him- or herself.
- The defendant involuntarily consumed “alcohol, controlled substances, or volatile substances.” If the consumption was voluntary, this defense will not hold up in court.
If the court finds that special mitigating factors were present in your case, your offense can be reduced by one full tier. For example, a second degree felony would be reduced to a third degree felony and so forth.
Trust Our West Valley Murder Defense Lawyers
If you or a loved one is facing homicide charges in West Valley City, call our murder defense lawyers immediately at (801) 758-2287 for a free case evaluation. Our consultations are always confidential, and our attorneys are available to make emergency jail visits day or night.