What Is the Difference Between Murder and Manslaughter in Utah?

Crimes that involve the death of another person are always considered severe. There is no such thing as a minor homicide. However, there is a significant difference between intentional homicides and those resulting from recklessness, negligence, or unintentional behavior. Telling the difference between these two types of criminal homicide offenses can sometimes be difficult.

Murder can be described as knowingly and intentionally causing the death of another person, although multiple circumstances could give rise to murder charges. Manslaughter is different because the killing is not intentional and is instead caused by reckless behavior. Manslaughter, while still a very serious charge, is less serious compared to murder. In many cases, defendants charged with murder may negotiate plea agreements in which their charges are reduced to manslaughter.

If you are facing charges related to the killing of another person, you may be facing extremely serious penalties. Our Park City criminal homicide defense lawyers can help you challenge the charges against you. Call the team at Overson & Bugden at (801) 758-2287 to discuss your case in a free legal consultation.

Differences Between Murder and Manslaughter Charges in Utah

Murder and manslaughter are different types of criminal homicide, which may lead to very serious criminal charges. However, the elements of each offense are very different, and they are charged under different circumstances. While murder usually requires an intentional act by the defendant, manslaughter is usually based on the defendant’s recklessness rather than their intent to kill.

Murder is the more serious of these charges because it requires an intent to kill or harm the victim. Manslaughter is less serious because that intent to kill is not present, but the defendant still acted dangerously. Because they have different levels of intent, defending against these charges looks very different. In either case, you need an experienced attorney to help you. Call our Riverton criminal homicide defense attorney for assistance with your charges.

How Murder Is Charged in Utah

The statute for murder can be found under Utah Code § 76-5-203. According to the law, murder is an intentional killing caused by the defendant. However, the law carves out numerous circumstances under which murder could be charged. Not every killing must be a premeditated act with a deadly weapon to be considered murder.

You could be charged with murder for doing something with the intent to cause bodily harm that is so dangerous to human life that it causes death. You could also be charged with murder for participating in conduct that is so depraved or indifferent to human life that your actions cause the death of another.

Murder can also be charged if you kill someone, accidentally or otherwise, while committing another felony. This is often referred to as felony murder. An example of felony murder would be accidentally hitting someone with your getaway car while fleeing a bank robbery. Even if the killing was unintentional, you could be charged with murder because you were in the process of committing another felony.

Murder is often charged at a higher level than manslaughter and punished more harshly. Murder is charged as a first-degree felony and carries penalties beyond those for ordinary felonies. For murder, a convicted defendant could be sentenced to at least 15 years in prison and up to life. If you have been charged with murder, contact our Utah criminal defense lawyers for help.

Manslaughter Charges in Utah

Manslaughter is different from murder because it is an unintentional killing and is often charged as a less serious crime than murder. The statute for manslaughter is located under Utah Code § 76-5-205 and explains that manslaughter happens when a defendant recklessly causes the death of another. However, multiple situations may lead to manslaughter charges. The statute is not specific about what kind of reckless behavior causes manslaughter, as any kind of reckless behavior could potentially be dangerous enough to lead to someone’s death.

An example of manslaughter would be accidentally shooting and killing a hunting buddy while you are both hunting. Hunting is inherently dangerous, and if a hunter fails to take proper precautions, such as making sure they are not pointing a gun toward other hunters, their actions may be deemed reckless, and they could be charged with manslaughter.

Manslaughter is charged as a second-degree felony, which is a bit less severe than murder charges. A second-degree felony may be punished by at least 1 year in prison but no more than 15. Also, if the offense involves a motor vehicle accident, you will lose your driver’s license. Call our Salt Lake City manslaughter defense lawyers for assistance with your charges.

Defending Against Murder and Manslaughter in Utah

Defending against murder and manslaughter are very different because the criminal elements in each of these charges are different. Murder charges often revolve around the defendant’s intent. A successful murder defense may involve proving the defendant did not actually intend to kill the victim. Manslaughter, on the other hand, does not require the defendant’s intent to kill but is instead based on reckless conduct. Defending against manslaughter charges might mean arguing that the defendant’s behavior was not reckless but was actually reasonable under the circumstances.

Since murder is a more serious form of criminal homicide, a successful murder defense may not always dismiss your charges but instead have them reduced to manslaughter. Alternatively, this could also be achieved through a plea bargain with prosecutors. Manslaughter could also be reduced to the lesser charge of negligent homicide. Negligence is a somewhat lesser level of culpability and therefore comes with lighter penalties. Negligent homicide is only charged as a Class A misdemeanor instead of a felony.

If you want to fight your charges or negotiate to have them reduced, talk to our Ogden criminal defense lawyers.

Call Our Utah Criminal Homicide Defense Attorneys

If you have been charged with manslaughter or murder, you need the help of an experienced criminal defense attorney immediately. Our Utah criminal homicide defense lawyers will help you challenge your case and fight your charges. Call Overson & Bugden at (801) 758-2287 for a free, confidential legal consultation.