Utah Criminal Code 76-5-201: Criminal Homicide–Elements–Designations Of Offenses–Exceptions
1. Except as provided in Subsections (3) and (4), a person commits criminal homicide if the person intentionally, knowingly, recklessly, with criminal negligence, or acting with a mental state otherwise specified in the statute defining the offense, causes the death of another human being, including an unborn child at any stage of its development. There shall be no cause of action for criminal homicide for the death of an unborn child caused by an abortion, as defined in (b) Section 76-7-301.
2. Criminal homicide is aggravated murder, murder, manslaughter, child abuse homicide, homicide by assault, negligent homicide, or automobile homicide.
3. A person is not guilty of criminal homicide of an unborn child if the sole reason for the death of the unborn child is that the person:
a) refused to consent to:
i. medical treatment; or
ii. a cesarean section; or (
b) failed to follow medical advice.
4. A woman is not guilty of criminal homicide of her own unborn child if the death of her unborn child:
a) is caused by a criminally negligent act or reckless act of the woman; and
b) is not caused by an intentional or knowing act of the woman.
When someone takes the life of another, regardless of intent or other details surrounding the incident, it is called a homicide. Homicide is not always a crime, such as in cases of self-defense or the state-sanctioned execution of certain convicted criminals. Criminal homicides involve either negligence or willful intent, and range from involuntary manslaughter (killing another motorist in a drunk driving accident, for example) to first-degree murder (stalking and killing a member of a rival gang, for instance). Sentences also vary widely, depending on the severity of the crime and other mitigating factors. For example, some states sentence convicted murderers to death but provide psychiatric treatment to those acquitted by reason of insanity. This section provides in-depth information about homicide in its various forms. If you have specific questions related to your situation you should speak with a local criminal defense attorney.
First Degree Murder Defenses
There are two general categories for murder defenses. One is when a defense attorney tries to show that the prosecution is trying the wrong person and the second is when an attorney admits that the accused murderer killed, but did so in a manner that was justified including self-defense, defense of others, and exercise of duty, insanity and more.
First Degree Murder Penalties and Sentences
The possible sentences for first degree murder vary widely by state. However, punishment for first-degree murder is among the most strict that can be handed down by the court. It is one of the few crimes that can be legally punished by death in certain cases. Certain aggravating factors include aspects of the crime, of the defendant, or of the victim(s) will render the defendant eligible for either the death penalty or life in prison without the possibility of parole.
Voluntary Manslaughter Defenses
There are several defenses an attorney can assert to fight a charge of voluntary manslaughter. The most common include self defense (the killing resulted from a reasonable use of force to resist a reasonable fear of death or bodily harm), defense of others (use of force must be timely and proportional to the threat faced, and the perceived threat of death or bodily harm must be reasonable), and accidental killing (the death occurred as the result of an accident). Having an attorney during criminal proceedings is critical for those charged with committing homicide. A murder or manslaughter case can involve hundreds of hours of work for an attorney. It is the job of criminal defense attorneys to represent those charged with crimes in court. Homicide crime penalties can range in severity including years in prison or even death. Your homicide defense attorney’s job is to protect your rights and ensure your access to a fair trial. By examining the circumstances surrounding your case and weighing the strength of the evidence against you, your defense lawyer will apply current law, along with previous legal precedent, to your specific situation and use it to devise a solid legal strategy and build the best possible case for acquittal. Not all homicides are crimes. However, all killings of humans are included in the homicide definition. Many homicides, such as murder and manslaughter, violate criminal laws. Others, such as a killing committed in justified self-defense, are not criminal. Illegal killings range from manslaughter to murder, with multiple degrees of each representing the gravity of the crime.
Some killings within the definition of homicide aren’t illegal. Criminal laws carve out exceptions for some killings which would otherwise fall under criminal laws against manslaughter or murder. These are referred to as “justified homicide”. One primary example is a killing in justified self-defense or defense of someone else. Such a homicide is deemed justified if the situation called for self-defense and state law allows lethal force in that type of situation. Most state laws allow justified homicide to defend oneself or another from credible threat of serious crimes such as rape, armed robbery and murder.
Related Wrongful Death Claims
No matter where a homicide falls on the criminal spectrum, it may also bring a civil lawsuit for wrongful death. In the case of a homicide, the family of the victim may sue the alleged perpetrator to collect damages for that person causing the death of their loved one. While wrongful death lawsuits offer monetary results rather than criminal punishment, they also have a much lower standard of proof than the criminal standard of guilt beyond a reasonable doubt. Regardless of the circumstances, any charge that meets the definition of homicide is among the most serious that is made in the criminal justice system. Defense in homicide cases is often complicated and requires intensive preparation. If you’ve been charged with a homicide-related offense, or any crime for that matter, meeting with an experienced criminal defense attorney can provide valuable information about how to defend yourself.
Justifiable or Excusable Homicide
A homicide may be justifiable or excusable by the surrounding circumstances. In such cases, the homicide will not be considered a criminal act. A justifiable homicide is a homicide that is commanded or authorized by law. For instance, soldiers in a time of war may be commanded to kill enemy soldiers. Generally, such killings are considered justifiable homicide unless other circumstances suggest that they were not necessary or that they were not within the scope of the soldiers’ duty. In addition, a public official is justified in carrying out a death sentence because the execution is commanded by state or federal law. A person is authorized to kill another person in self-defense or in the defense of others, but only if the person reasonably believes that the killing is absolutely necessary in order to prevent serious harm or death to himself or herself or to others. If the threatened harm can be avoided with reasonable safety, some states require the person to retreat before using Deadly Force. Most states do not require retreat if the individual is attacked or threatened in his or her home, place of employment, or place of business. In addition, some states do not require a person to retreat unless that person in some way provoked the threat of harm. Finally, police officers may use deadly force to stop or apprehend a fleeing felon, but only if the suspect is armed or has committed a crime that involved the infliction or threatened infliction of serious injury or death. A police officer may not use deadly force to apprehend or stop an individual who has committed, or is committing, a misdemeanor offense. Only certain felonies are considered in determining whether deadly force may be used to apprehend or stop a suspect. For instance, a police officer may not use deadly force to prevent the commission of Larceny unless other circumstances threaten him or other persons with imminent serious injury or death. Excusable homicide is sometimes distinguished from justifiable homicide on the basis that it involves some fault on the part of the person who ultimately uses deadly force. For instance, if a person provokes a fight and subsequently withdraws from it but, out of necessity and in self-defense, ultimately kills the other person, the homicide is sometimes classified as excusable, rather than justifiable. Generally, however, the distinction between justifiable homicide and excusable homicide has largely disappeared, and only the term justifiable homicide is widely used.
Other legal defenses to a charge of criminal homicide include insanity, necessity, accident, and intoxication. Some of these defenses may provide an absolute defense to a charge of criminal homicide; some will not. For instance, a successful defense of voluntary intoxication generally will allow an individual to avoid prosecution for a premeditated murder, but typically it will not allow an individual to escape liability for any lesser charges, such as second-degree murder or manslaughter. As with any defense to a criminal charge, the accused’s mental state will be a critical determinant of whether he or she had the requisite intent or mental capacity to commit a criminal homicide.
Euthanasia and Physician-Assisted Suicide
The killing of oneself is a suicide, not a homicide. If a person kills another person in order to end the other person’s pain or suffering, the killing is considered a homicide. It does not matter if the other person is about to die or is terminally ill just prior to being killed; the law generally views such a killing as criminal. Thus, a mercy killing, or act of Euthanasia, is generally considered a criminal homicide.
Is Murder Different From Homicide?
Homicide is a legal term for any killing of a human being by another human being. Homicide itself is not necessarily a crime—for instance, a justifiable killing of a suspect by the police or a killing in self-defense. Murder and manslaughter fall under the category of unlawful homicides. Under the common law (law originating from custom and court decisions rather than statutes), murder was an intentional killing that was:
• unlawful (in other words, not legally justified), and
• committed with “malice aforethought.”
Malice aforethought doesn’t mean that a killer has to have acted out of spite or hate. It exists if a defendant intends to kill someone without legal justification or excuse. In addition, in most states, malice aforethought isn’t limited to intentional killings. It can also exist if the killer:
• intentionally inflicts serious bodily harm that causes the victim’s death, or
• behaves in a way that shows extreme, reckless disregard for life and results in the victim’s death.
In today’s society, murder is defined by statute, rather than common law. Though today’s statutes derive from common law, one has to look to these statutes for important distinctions like the difference between first and second degree murder. Even within the universe of those who kill with malice aforethought, the law regards some as more dangerous and morally blameworthy than others. First degree murder applies to those defendants. Killings involving malice that don’t amount to first degree murder tend to constitute second degree murder. The rules vary somewhat from state to state as to what circumstances make an intentional killing first degree murder, but the following circumstances commonly do so: The killing is deliberate and premeditated. In other words, the killer has formed the intent to kill and has had time, however brief, to reflect on the matter. The killing occurs during the course of a dangerous felony. This crime is often known as “felony murder.” Someone can be guilty of murder if a death occurs during the course of a dangerous felony, even if the person is not the killer. In most states, the death must be a foreseeable result of the initial felony. In most states, a defendant who didn’t directly cause the death of an accomplice isn’t automatically criminally liable for that death. In California, for example, the statute defining first degree murder specifies several ways in which the crime can occur. In part, it states, “All murder which is perpetrated by means of a destructive device or explosive … or by any other kind of willful, deliberate, and premeditated killing … is murder of the first degree.” Many states have mandatory minimum sentences for murder. The mandatory minimum for first degree murder is almost always higher than that for second degree murder. Defendants convicted of first degree murder can also be eligible for the ultimate penalty: death. Many states and the federal government still have the death penalty. In other states, the maximum penalty is life in prison without the possibility of parole (LWOP). Defendants convicted of second degree murder are often sentenced to a term of years rather than life in prison and are often eligible for parole.
Criminal Defense Lawyer
When you need a criminal defense attorney in Utah, please call Ascent Law LLC for your free consultation (801) 676-5506. We want to help you.
8833 S. Redwood Road, Suite C
West Jordan, Utah
84088 United States
Telephone: (801) 676-5506