Being charged with a violent crime in the state of Utah can seem overwhelming. The uncertainty of the legal procedure, what are your legal options, and how a conviction can have a detrimental impact on an individual's life. It is important that if you are facing a violent offense charge, that you seek legal representation. Understanding your legal options based on your situation and circumstances can help you retain your freedom and protect your future. A conviction of a violent offense can result in a loss of housing, employment, and educational opportunities, and not being eligible for certain academic scholarships. There are other ways that being convicted of a violent crime can have a negative impact on an individual's life.
If you are facing charges for violent crimes, it is vital to weigh all your legal options. However, it will likely be most beneficial for you to seek counsel from an experienced defense attorney.
Violent Crimes in Utah
Assault - §76-5-102
An actor commits assault when he or she uses unlawful force or violence to commit or attempt to commit bodily injury to another; or if the actor uses unlawful force or violence to cause bodily injury to another or creates a substantial risk of bodily injury to another.
Aggravated Assault - §76-5-103
An actor is guilty of aggravated assault when he or she commits or attempts to commit assault as defined by §76-5-102, and uses a dangerous weapon or other means of force likely to produce death or serious bodily injury to another.
Burglary - §76-6-202
An individual may be found guilty of burglary if he or she enters or remains unlawfully in a building or any portion of a building with the intent to commit any of the following:
An assault on another person;
Lewdness involving a child; or
Kidnapping - §76-5-301
This occurs when a person intentionally or knowingly, without legal authority, and against the victim’s will, do any of the following:
Detains or restrains the victim for any substantial amount of time;
Detains or holds a victim in circumstances exposing him or her to the risk of bodily injury;
Holds a victim in involuntary servitude;
Detains a minor between the ages of 14 and 17 without his or her parents’ or legal guardian’s consent; or
Moves a victim a substantial distance across a state line.
Manslaughter - §76-5-205
A person commits manslaughter when he or she recklessly causes the death of another; commits homicide reduced to manslaughter by 76-5-203(4); or commits murder but with special mitigation under 76-5-205.5.
Murder/Homicide - §76-5-203:
A person is guilty of murder if he or she does any of the following:
Intentionally or knowingly causes the death of another;
Commits an act clearly dangerous to human life which causes death to another;
Acts in a way showing indifference to human life causing death of another person;
Knowingly engages in commission, an attempt, or immediate flight from commission or attempt of any predicate offense, or is a party to the predicate offense, and acted with the requisite intent of the predicate offense;
Recklessly causes the death of a peace officer or military service member in uniform while committing, or attempting to commit any of the following:
An assault against a peace officer
Forceful interference with a peace officer while making a lawful arrest; or
An assault against a military service member in uniform.
Negligent Homicide - §76-5-206
An actor commits negligent homicide when he or she causes the death of another with criminal negligence.
Rape - §76-5-402
A person commits rape when he or she has sexual intercourse with another person without the victim’s consent.
Robbery - §76-6-301
A person may be found guilty of robbery if he or she unlawfully and intentionally takes or attempts to take another person’s personal property out of his immediate possession by force or fear, against his will, with the intent to deprive the property owner of said property; or
Intentionally or knowingly uses force or fear of immediate force against another in the course of committing theft or a wrongful appropriation.
Utah Penalties for Violent Crimes
In Utah, violent crimes can carry a wide range of sentences depending on the circumstances and the victims involved. In most cases, violent crimes require a mandatory prison sentence. In less serious circumstances, fines and short jail times may result. The following is a sample of some of the penalties attached to violent crimes.
Class A misdemeanors, the highest level misdemeanor a person can receive, are punishable by up to one year in jail and/or $2,500 in fines.
Third-degree felonies are among the midlevel penalties for violent crime. These charges can mean up to five years in prison and/or $5,000 in fines.
Second-degree felonies are the next level up, and carry a penalty of one to 15 years in prison and/or $10,00 in fines.
First-degree felonies are extremely serious and carry a heavy punishment of five years to life in prison with a maximum of $10,000 in fines.
Capital offenses are the most serious, carrying the heaviest punishment of life imprisonment with or without parole, or the death penalty. *In the state of Utah, the death penalty is reserved for aggravated murder.*
Defenses to Utah Violent Crimes Charges
Most violent crimes require both elements of knowledge and intent. Any defense strategy that calls these elements into question can provide the defendant with a better argument in court. Specific defense strategies can be discussed in person with a defense attorney to better fit them to your specific circumstances. Listed below are some of the most common defenses against violent crime charges.
Defendant Lacks Knowledge - Most violent crimes require a knowledge element. This means that the prosecution has to prove that the defendant had knowledge of his or her actions at the time of the alleged offense. If the defendant did not or could not have had the requisite knowledge that the offense calls for, the charges must be dismissed or reduced.
Defendant Acted out of Self-Defense - For some violent crimes, the defendant can utilize a self-defense argument. This defense allows a defendant to admit to the act, but to mitigate penalties by asserting that he or she acted in defense. For example, an individual may have his charges dismissed or reduced for an aggravated assault where he used force which he believed necessary to defend against an opposing party’s imminent use of unlawful force.
Lack of knowledge and self-defense are just two of several defenses a person can use against violent crime allegations.
Additional Resources for Violent Crimes
Utah Code - Robbery: Visit Chapter 6, Section 301 of the Utah Code which constitutes the crime of robbery. Click the link to view elements of the offense and how the statute classifies as it a second-degree felony.
Drug Enforcement Administration – Federal Drug Penalties – The Drug Enforcement Administration’s (DEA) website provides the penalties for a federal drug crime conviction for various drug offenses, such as drug possession and possession with the intent to distribute. The DEA is a national government agency that investigates and enforces federal drug crimes.