Utah Criminal Code 76-5-203: Murder
1. As used in this section, “predicate offense” means:
a) a violation of Section 58-37d-4 or 58-37d-5, Clandestine Drug Lab Act;
) kidnapping under Section 76-5-301;
d) child kidnapping under Section 76-5-301.1;
e) aggravated kidnapping under Section 76-5-302;
f) rape of a child under Section 76-5-402.1;
g) object rape of a child under Section 76-5-402.3;
h) sodomy upon a child under Section 76-5-403.1;
) sexual abuse of a child or aggravated sexual abuse of a child under Section 76-5-404.1;
k) rape under Section 76-5-402;
l) object rape under Section 76-5-402.2;
m) forcible sodomy under Section 76-5-403;
) arson under Section 76-6-102;
p) aggravated arson under Section 76-6-103;
q) burglary under Section 76-6-202;
r) aggravated burglary under Section 76-6-203;
s) robbery under Section 76-6-301;
t) aggravated robbery under Section 76-6-302;
u) escape or aggravated escape under Section 76-8-309; or
v) a felony violation of Subsection 76-10-508(2) regarding discharge of a firearm or dangerous weapon.
2. Criminal homicide constitutes murder if:
a) the actor intentionally or knowingly causes the death of another;
b) intending to cause serious bodily injury to another, the actor commits an act clearly dangerous to human life that causes the death of another;
c) acting under circumstances evidencing a depraved indifference to human life, the actor engages in conduct which creates a grave risk of death to another and thereby causes the death of another;
d) the actor is engaged in the commission, attempted commission, or immediate flight from the commission or attempted commission of any predicate offense, or is a party to the predicate offense; a person other than a party as defined in Section 76-2-202 is killed in the course of the commission, attempted commission, or immediate flight from the commission or attempted commission of any predicate offense; and the actor acted with the intent required as an element of the predicate offense;
e) the actor recklessly causes the death of a peace officer while in the commission or attempted commission of: an assault against a peace officer under Section 76-5-102.4; or interference with a peace officer while making a lawful arrest under Section 76-8-305
f) if the actor uses force against a peace officer; commits a homicide which would be aggravated murder, but the offense is reduced pursuant to Subsection 76-5-202(3); or
g) the actor commits aggravated murder, but special mitigation is established under Section 76-5-205.5.
3. Murder is a first degree felony.
a) A person who is convicted of murder shall be sentenced to imprisonment for an indeterminate term of not less than 15 years and which may be for life.
4. It is an affirmative defense to a charge of murder or attempted murder that the defendant caused the death of another or attempted to cause the death of another: under the influence of extreme emotional distress for which there is a reasonable explanation or excuse; or under a reasonable belief that the circumstances provided a legal justification or excuse for his conduct although the conduct was not legally justifiable or excusable under the existing circumstances.
c) The reasonableness of an explanation or excuse under Subsection (4)(a) or the reasonable belief of the actor under Subsection (4)(a) shall be determined from the viewpoint of a reasonable person under the then existing circumstances.
d) This affirmative defense reduces charges only as follows:
I. murder to manslaughter; and
II. attempted murder to attempted manslaughter.
5. Any predicate offense described in Subsection (1) that constitutes a separate offense does not merge with the crime of murder.
6. A person who is convicted of murder, based on a predicate offense described in Subsection (1) that constitutes a separate offense, may also be convicted of, and punished for, the separate offense.
Manslaughter, simply defined, is “the unlawful killing of a human being without malice aforethought.” Voluntary manslaughter can refer to when the accused kills a person, but is deemed to have been provoked by the victim, as during the “heat of passion” during an altercation. Involuntary manslaughter generally applies where death is the unintentional (involuntary) consequence of the actions of the accused. Reckless driving, as while texting or after drinking, for instance, can result in the death of other people, but the driver didn’t first set out on the road with deliberate intent to harm them and so may be considered involuntary manslaughter.
Murder is “the killing of another human being under conditions specifically covered in law.” First-degree murder involves the planning (premeditation) of the act or killing that happens when another crime is being committed (e.g., robbery, arson). Second-degree murder involves the intent to murder someone, but the murder didn’t take place with deliberation or premeditation beforehand.
Of all the crimes punished by society, none are more serious than the crime of murder, the intentional and unlawful taking of a human life. Apart from the federal crimes of espionage and treason, murder is the only crime for which the death penalty is a potential punishment, though only in some states. The crime of attempted murder can be charged when a person intends to commit murder and tries to carry out the killing but, for whatever reason, is unable to accomplish it. Like murder itself, attempted murder is a serious crime and one that comes with some of the most severe penalties in the criminal justice system. Attempted murder is the failed or aborted attempt to murder another person. Just like other crimes, attempted murder consists of both an action and an intention. In attempted murder, a person must take a direct step towards the killing and must have the specific intent to kill that person. In order to be convicted of attempted murder, a prosecutor must show that the accused took a direct step towards killing the targeted victim. Courts have explained the requirement for a direct step by stating that a person must go beyond merely preparing to commit the crime, and instead cross over into actually perpetrating it. Preparation is thinking about committing the crime, talking about it, or otherwise planning to do it, while perpetration is taking an action that puts the plan in motion and that would result in the intended killing. The kinds of actions that are enough to be a direct step differs from case to case, though there are a range of actions that can qualify, such as:
• Stalking, tracking, or ambushing. This includes hiding out in waiting, tracking the victim down, or following the victim, hoping for an opportunity to commit the murder.
• Luring. Includes trying to convince the victim to come to a specific place or take specific actions that will make it possible for the victim to be murdered.
• Breaking-in. For example, unlawfully sneaking into a home, property, or other place where the victim is or thought to be.
• Constructing. This might include collecting all the materials necessary for the murder, such as the parts of a bomb, and starting to put them together.
• Soliciting. For instance, paying or convincing someone else to commit the murder, or even convincing an unknowing person to carry out a key part of the crime, such as unknowingly planting a bomb.
You cannot accidentally commit attempted murder. To be convicted of attempted murder, a prosecutor must show that the accused specifically intended to commit the crime. The prosecutor must not only show that the accused intended to kill, but that the intent was to kill the specific victim.
• Intent to act. You must have the intent to take the required actions. In other words, you have to intend to carry out the direct step. For example, if you are thinking about killing someone with a home-made bomb and, coincidentally, end up buying the pieces you need to make the bomb before you ever know how to make it, you don’t have the intent to commit the direct step. If, on the other hand, you research bomb making and then buy the material and put the bomb together, you have committed a direct step.
• Intent to kill. To be convicted of attempted murder, the accused must intend to cause a specific harm, namely to kill the targeted victim. You cannot, for example, commit attempted murder if you intended to only maim, frighten, or disfigure someone. It can be difficult for the prosecutor to prove this point, but often, the circumstances of the crime lead naturally to this conclusion. For example, if you hit someone in the head with a lead pipe, that alone may be enough to show that you intended to kill the person. On the other hand, hitting someone in the legs is less lethal, and may not amount to attempted murder.
Some prosecutions fail because the state’s attorney cannot prove that the accused committed a direct step, or that the accused had the specific intent to murder. But sometimes, the jury may not convict due to a particular defense offered by the defendant. Because an attempted murder does not result in the intended harm, specific defenses are available that are not always relevant in other cases.
• Impossibility. An impossibility defense is one where the accused doesn’t deny having committed the acts, but instead claims that even if everything went to plan, there couldn’t have been a murder anyway. For example, the accused might claim that the gun used in the attempt was a non-functioning replica, so the murder could never have happened. However, some states have passed laws that abolish the impossibility defense, and in these states, it is not an accepted defense for any attempted crimes, including attempted murder.
• Renunciation or withdrawal. Some states allow for a “renunciation” defense, sometimes known as withdrawal. This defense provides that even though the accused committed at least one direct step, the accused later decided not to commit the murder. Unlike showing that the prosecution failed to adequately prove one of the elements, the accused must prove that the crime was abandoned because the defendant intentionally stopped any and all efforts to continue it or took steps to prevent the murder from occurring.
Punishments for Attempted Murder
Because murder is the most serious crime and has the most serious penalties associated with it, attempted murder is also punished very harshly. However, while some states allow for the death penalty in murder cases, that punishment is not possible in attempted murder cases. Attempted murder is always a felony offense, and states typically impose a prison sentence equal to about half the sentence associated with a murder conviction.
• Degrees: Like murder, attempted murder is charged as either a first degree or second degree offense. First degree attempted murder means the person intentionally, and with premeditation, tried to kill someone else; while second degree attempted murder means the accused acted without premeditation, or acted in a fit of passion. Second degree murder also includes deaths that occur while the accused is engaged in committing another felony, such as arson or burglary. (However, states can vary as to how they categorize first and second degree murder.)
• Sentence: A conviction for first degree attempted murder brings a lengthier prison sentence than a conviction for second-degree attempted murder. First degree attempted murder is often punished with a life sentence, though the convicted does have the possibility to receive parole. Second degree attempted murder usually comes with a lengthy prison sentence, often ranging from between 5 to 15 years in prison.
Requirements for First-degree Murder
Although the exact state laws defining first-degree murder vary by state, most state penal codes require that a prosecutor establish willfulness, deliberation, and premeditation in order to convict a defendant of first-degree murder. Willfulness requires that the defendant acted with the intent to kill another person. Thus, the death cannot have been accidental. However, the prosecutor does not have to show that the defendant intended to kill that particular victim. If the defendant shoots into a crowd with the intent to kill his friend, but hits and kills a bystander instead, these facts can still support a charge of first-degree murder. Deliberation and premeditation mean that the prosecutor must show that the defendant developed the conscious intent to kill before committing the murder. This is a low threshold and does not require showing that the defendant created an extensive plan before he committed the act (although that might sometimes be the case). Rather, deliberation and premeditation require only that the defendant paused, for at least a few moments, to consider his actions, during which time a reasonable person would have had time to second guess such actions.
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