What is the Punishment for Attempted Murder in Utah?

Attempted murder is one of the most serious charges in Utah’s criminal justice system, carrying severe penalties that can effectively change your life forever. The process surrounding these cases is complex, involving careful consideration of the actions, intent, and circumstances of the alleged crime.

These cases are often challenging because of the situations in which they arise. It can sometimes be difficult to tell between what is a violent overreaction and a genuine attempt to kill someone. That is why you need a defense attorney who thoroughly understands the nature of these cases. Our team can help you gather evidence to undermine the state’s arguments that you intended to kill the other person in the altercation. Even if the situation seems clear, our defense attorneys can negotiate with the prosecution to possibly have your charges or sentence reduced. Facing these charges without the help of our attorneys could result in much more significant penalties.

Call Overson Law, PLLC at (801) 758-2287 for a free case evaluation with our Salt Lake City murder defense lawyers.

How is Attempted Murder Punished in Utah?

Attempted murder in Utah is considered a serious offense, reflecting the state’s commitment to protecting the lives and safety of its citizens. This crime involves taking deliberate actions with the intent to cause the death of another person, albeit unsuccessfully. Fortunately, our Salt Lake City manslaughter defense attorneys can help build the defense you deserve. The following framework is designed to penalize not just the successful commission of such heinous acts but also the intention and steps taken toward committing them:

How Attempted Murder is Defined

In Utah, the criminal offense of attempted murder is considered to be a first-degree felony, which is the most serious category of offense. This classification is based on the severity of the crime and the potential consequences of the actions taken by the offender.

According to Utah Code § 76-4-101, an individual is considered to have committed an attempt when they engage in conduct that constitutes a substantial step toward committing the crime of murder.

Murder is defined as intentionally or knowingly causing the death of another person or acting with the intent to cause lethal harm under circumstances that demonstrate a depraved indifference to human life. This means that an attempted murder charge can be brought against someone who takes a significant step toward causing a person’s death or causing them serious bodily harm, even if they do not ultimately succeed in carrying out their plan.

The severity of the penalties associated with attempted murder reflects the seriousness of the offense. Those found guilty of this crime can face long prison sentences, hefty fines, and a host of other legal consequences. It is important to note that the specifics of the penalties can vary depending on the circumstances of the attempted murder and the defendant’s criminal history.

The Punishment for Attempted Murder

In Utah, attempting to commit murder is considered an extremely serious offense and is punishable as a first-degree felony. Those found guilty of this crime might face severe penalties, which can include a lengthy prison sentence. According to Utah Code § 76-3-203, the sentencing for a first-degree felony in Utah can range from a minimum of five years to a maximum of life in prison.

However, the exact sentence within this range is determined by various factors, such as the circumstances of the crime, the defendant’s criminal history, and any aggravating or mitigating factors present in the case. Therefore, the judge has the discretion to impose a sentence that is appropriate and just in light of the specific facts and circumstances of the case.

It is also worth mentioning that Utah law provides for the possibility of parole, which allows a person to be released from prison before completing their full sentence, subject to certain conditions and restrictions.

Aggravating Factors in Attempted Murder Cases

A charge of attempted murder can carry different degrees of severity depending on certain aggravating factors. These factors might include the use of a deadly weapon, the vulnerability of the victim, and the presence of hate crime elements. Using a deadly weapon, such as a gun or a knife, can significantly increase the seriousness of the charge and potentially lead to harsher penalties.

Similarly, if the victim is particularly vulnerable, such as being elderly or having a physical disability, the court might consider this as an aggravating factor and impose a more severe sentence.

Additionally, if the attempted murder was motivated by hate, such as a bias against a particular race, religion, or sexual orientation, this can also be considered an aggravating factor and result in a more severe sentence. When these aggravating factors are present, the court has the discretion to impose harsher penalties, which can potentially lead to longer prison terms within the statutory range.

What Defenses Can Be Used Against Attempted Murder Charges in Utah?

Defending against attempted murder charges in Utah involves navigating complex legal territories. The specifics of the case deeply influence the applicability and effectiveness of potential defenses. Each of these defenses presents its own set of challenges and requires a nuanced understanding of both the law and the particulars of the accused’s situation:

Lack of Intent

One of the most critical elements of attempted murder is the intent to kill. A defense strategy might revolve around proving the absence of this specific intent. For instance, if the accused can demonstrate that their actions were reckless or negligent without the intention to kill, this could potentially negate the charge of attempted murder, possibly leading to lesser charges.

Mistake of Fact

A mistake of fact occurs when a person has a misunderstanding about a fact that is material to the crime. In the context of attempted murder, if the defendant can prove that they were operating under a mistaken belief that negated the intent to commit murder, this defense could be applicable.

Self-Defense or Defense of Others

Self-defense or defense of others is a common and often potent defense in cases of attempted murder. Under Utah law, individuals are permitted to use reasonable force to protect themselves or others from imminent harm. If the defendant can demonstrate that their actions were in response to a legitimate threat of death or serious bodily injury, this defense can be compelling.


The insanity defense is complex and relies on proving that the defendant was incapable of understanding the nature of their actions or distinguishing right from wrong because of severe mental disease or defect at the time of the offense.


Duress involves committing a crime because of coercion or a threat of immediate harm to oneself or another. For duress to be a viable defense against attempted murder charges, the defendant must show that they were compelled to act under fear of death or serious bodily injury. This defense acknowledges that the defendant’s actions were not wholly voluntary.

Our Utah Attempted Murder Defense Attorneys Can Help You Defend Against These Life-Altering Charges

For a free case review, contact our West Valley City attempted murder defense attorneys at Overson Law, PLLC by calling (801) 758-2287.