What is the Attempt Statute in Utah?

Some people might not realize that you can be punished for a crime even if you did not commit it. Utah recognizes that attempting a crime is just as punishable as the act itself.

If you have been charged with attempt of a crime, our firm can help you understand the law underlying your charges and the potential penalties you might face. However, we can also advise on the best defenses to use in your case. Attempt cases can be difficult for the state to prove as it requires showing that you acted in some way that went to achieving the crime. Our team knows that many innocent situations can be used against you in these cases. That is why you want a defense firm that knows how to protect your rights.

For a free case review with our Salt Lake City criminal defense attorneys, contact Overson Law, PLLC by calling us at (801) 758-2287.

What is Utah’s Criminal Attempt Statute

Under Utah Code § 76-4-101, a person can be charged with an attempt to commit a crime if they engage in an act that constitutes a substantial step toward committing a crime while having the underlying intent to commit the offense. It is not only about what the accused intended but also about how far they went in their efforts to achieve that intent.

The classification of attempt offenses under Utah Code § 76-4-102 mirrors the severity of the intended crime but is one degree lower than the offense that was attempted. For instance, if someone tries to commit a second-degree felony, the attempt is classified as a third-degree felony. This structure reflects a delicate balance between recognizing the potential harm of the intended crime and acknowledging the fact that the crime was not completed.

However, because these cases rely on proving what was in the defendant’s mind, our Park City criminal defense attorneys can usually use several tactics to fight the charges. Here, the prosecution must prove beyond a reasonable doubt that you took a substantial step toward committing the crime.

What Are the Potential Penalties for Criminal Attempt in Utah?

The penalties levied for criminal attempt vary depending on the classification of the attempted crime. Keep in mind that these penalties can be enforced even if the attempt is not successful. In Utah, a conviction for the attempted crime will be one degree lower than the crime itself.

For instance, if the attempted crime is classified as a first-degree felony, the attempt will be charged as a second-degree felony. Still, the penalties can be severe, including imprisonment for a term of one to 15 years, with fines up to $10,000. This also applies to attempts to commit capital felonies or felonies punishable by life without parole, which are punishable by five years to life in prison and $10,000 in fines.

For crimes classified as second-degree felonies, attempts will be charged as third-degree felonies. Penalties include imprisonment for up to 5 years and fines of up to $5,000.

Lower degrees of attempted crimes, such as third and fourth-degree felonies and misdemeanors, carry correspondingly lesser penalties. The charges are also one step lower, like those above. A third degree felony is charged a class A misdemeanor and a fourth-degree felonies are charged as class B misdemeanor, and so on. Jail time, fines or both might be potential outcomes, depending on the specific nature of the crime and its classification.

What Acts Could Be Considered a Substantial Step Toward Committing a Crime in Utah?

The determination of what constitutes a “substantial step” toward committing a crime is a nuanced and complex process. It typically requires circumstantial evidence that could look innocent enough without the context of additional evidence. However, certain acts are sure to catch the attention of Utah law enforcement.

Acquiring or Gathering Tools or Materials

Engaging in activities such as obtaining, assembling, or preparing the tools, weapons, or materials that are essential to commit a crime can be considered a substantial step towards the commission of the crime. For example, purchasing a firearm with the intention of using it for a robbery or gathering the necessary materials for the manufacture of illegal drugs can be classified as a substantial step towards the commission of the related crime.

Surveillance and Reconnaissance

Conducting surveillance or collecting information about a potential target can also be considered a substantial step in the planning of a criminal act. This could include activities such as staking out a bank prior to a planned robbery or following a potential victim in preparation for an assault. Prosecutors will argue that such actions clearly indicate a clear intention to commit a crime and can lead to serious legal consequences.

Creating Plans or Diagrams

When a person engages in detailed planning or creates diagrams that outline how a crime will be committed, it can be perceived as a significant and concrete step towards its execution. This is especially true when such actions are accompanied by other preparatory measures, such as acquiring the necessary tools or scouting the location. In the eyes of most judges and jurors, such behaviors constitute a substantial step toward criminal activity.

Soliciting Participation or Assistance

When someone actively seeks the involvement of others in a criminal activity, it can show that they have gone beyond mere preparation and are taking steps to carry out the crime. This can involve solicitation, hiring, or coercion of others to participate in the crime through either persuasion or violence.

However, simply soliciting others without taking any further action might not always meet the threshold for a substantial step towards committing the crime. However, if the other party agrees to the crime, you may have committed the crime of conspiracy, a charge of its own. In many cases, though, additional actions must be established to show that the individual is actively working towards committing the crime besides just the agreement. Past conversations between two parties in a criminal trial rarely prove to be the most reliable evidence.

Taking Actions that Initiate the Crime

The commission of an act that initiates the execution of a crime, even if the intended outcome is not accomplished, is still regarded as a substantial step towards the criminal act. For instance, smashing a vehicle’s window with the intention of stealing it or aiming a gun at a person with the intent to rob them would be considered substantial steps toward the commission of the respective crimes.

How Do You Defend Against Attempt Charges in Utah?

Defending against attempt charges usually involves employing several strategies, depending on the specifics of the case.

For instance, demonstrating that the defendant did not have the specific intent to commit the crime can be a powerful defense. Since intent is a crucial element of an attempt charge, proving its absence can undermine the prosecution’s entire case.

Under certain circumstances, if you can show that you voluntarily and completely abandoned your criminal effort or plan before taking a substantial step, this can serve as a defense to the charge of an attempt.

Our Utah Criminal Defense Attorneys Know What it Takes to Fight Your Attempt Charges

Call Overson Law, PLLC at (801) 758-2287 for a free case evaluation with our Bountiful, UT criminal defense lawyers.