What is the Minimum Sentence for Murder in Utah?

Murder is a crime that is taken extremely seriously. Every single state in the country views the taking of another person’s life as a very bad thing. In fact, murder is one of the few crimes that can still result in capital punishment. While capital punishment is the most severe sentence that can be meted out for murder, the lower sentences that someone convicted of murder can receive are also quite serious. Moreover, unlike convictions for many other felonies, convictions for murder are extremely difficult to get off of your record, so anyone who cares to look will be able to see that you were convicted of murder for the rest of your life.

The minimum sentence for a murder conviction in Utah is 15 years in prison. It goes without saying that even the “minimum” is an extremely serious sentence. However, if you can work with an attorney to have charges lowered or dropped, the sentences can become more lenient.

For a free, confidential discussion of your case, call Overson Law’s Salt Lake City murder defense attorneys at the number (801) 758-2287.

What is Murder in Utah?

When people say “murder” in common conversation, they are usually using it as a catch-all for “killing someone else.” However, in law, murder refers to a specific crime with specific conduct. In Utah, murder is defined in Utah Code § 76-5-203(2) as “intentionally or knowingly” causing another person’s death. The terms “intentionally” and “knowingly” are also defined under Utah Code §§ 76-2-103(1) and (2), respectively. An “intentional” killing is done with that purpose in mind. For example, if you lay out a plan to kill someone all week and then walk into their house and kill them, that would be an intentional killing and, therefore, murder. A killing done “knowingly” is done with an awareness that it is likely to result in death. For example, a trucker driving their truck through a crowded school zone at 100 miles an hour and kill someone, that is murder, even if your intent was not to kill someone.

The Minimum Sentence for Murder in Utah

Under Utah Code § 76-5-203(3)(a)(i), murder is a first-degree felony, and under Utah Code § 76-5-203(a)(ii), it carries with it a minimum sentence of 15 years in prison – ten years longer than the minimum sentence for other first-degree felonies in Utah.

This is a very long sentence. Moreover, the consequences of a murder conviction will follow you for the rest of your life, even after you are out of prison. Family members, friends, banks, future employers, and more will be able to see that you were convicted of murder, even if you only received the minimum sentence. For that reason, it is critical that you contact our Utah murder defense lawyers right away to fight these charges.

Circumstances that Can Increase a Murder Sentence in Utah

While the minimum sentence for murder is still quite harsh, the reality is that most murder sentences are much longer, and you usually need to prove that there were mitigating circumstances just to get the minimum 15-year sentence. There are many factors that can make the penalties for murder more serious.

For example, Utah also has a crime called “aggravated” murder, which is defined under Utah Code § 76-5-202(2) as carrying out a killing that would be murder but with other circumstances present. For example, if murder is carried out in a correctional facility, the body of the victim is desecrated, or if the perpetrator has a prior conviction for any of a series of crimes, it is aggravated murder.

Unlike “regular” murder in Utah, prosecutors can seek the death penalty for aggravated murder under Utah Code § 76-5-202(3). Even if the death penalty is not sought, the minimum sentence for aggravated murder is increased to 25 years to life behind bars pursuant to Utah Code § 76-3-207.7(2).

Can Murder Charges be Reduced Below the Minimum Sentence in Utah?

If you or a loved one are facing murder charges, you may be wondering if you can get the consequences of a potential conviction reduced. Accomplishing that is possible, and the best way to do that is with the assistance of our legal professionals.

As previously stated, the minimum sentence for murder in Utah is 15 years in prison. In order to receive a sentence for less time than that, you will have to negotiate with the prosecutorto change the charges to a less serious offense like manslaughter or negligent homicide. Our Ogden murder defense lawyers can use evidence and legal arguments to explain to the court that the circumstances surrounding your situation do not amount to murder. For example, if you are being accused of murder, but there is no evidence that you planned or intended to kill anyone, as well as evidence that you were not doing things a reasonable person would know would lead to death, the facts of your case do not meet the necessary elements for a murder conviction. Depending on how strong the evidence is to support your claims, this could end with the prosecutor dropping charges altogether.

Another way to get your final penalties reduced or eliminated is to assert certain “affirmative defenses.” An affirmative defense is when you say that you did the things that would constitute a crime, but there are other circumstances that make it so you cannot be convicted of that particular crime. For example, under Utah Code § 76-5-203(4)(a), it is an affirmative defense to murder if you can prove self-defense. However, you can still be charged with manslaughter under those circumstances.

Another affirmative defense to a murder charge is “adequate provocation,” which Utah calls a “special mitigation” under Utah Code § 76-5-205.5(2). Essentially, you can argue as an affirmative defense to a murder charge that you were either under extreme emotional distress or were under a delusion brought on by a mental condition. Per Utah Code § 76-5-203(3)(b), you can still be convicted of manslaughter if you prove that one of the special mitigations applies, so you should talk to our attorneys before choosing that route.

Contact our Utah Murder Defense Lawyers Today

Our Lehi, UT murder defense attorneys can analyze your case for free when you call Overson Law at (801) 758-2287.