What is the Law on Murder in Utah and what are the Punishments for it?
The gravity of a criminal offense is often weighed by the resultant losses, especially if it leads to a loss of any human life. If the unlawful loss of human life is the intended result of the commission or omission of an act, then the criminal offense is deemed as the heinous crime of murder. In many states, unintentional but unlawful loss of life is viewed as involuntary manslaughter.
In most jurisdictions, murder bears the most serious of punishments i.e. life imprisonment without parole or even a death penalty. Mens rea or the element of having a guilty mind is factored in to assess if the unlawful act of taking another human life is murder or not.
Traditionally, murder is defined in common law as killing with malice afterthought, but in modern codified law, even the awareness of the certainty of death amounts to malicious intent for e.g. an offender leaves the victim in an injured or vulnerable state knowing that the death of victim is inevitable without medical aid, such willful refusal to help the victim also amounts to murder.
In the State of Utah, unlike other States which distinguish murder as first degree or second degree, Murder is classified as murder or aggravated murder. The offense of aggravated murder bears heavier penalties. Codified under UTAH CODE ANN. §§ 76-5-202, 76-5-203, any individual is guilty of murder if he or she causes the death of any other human being by:
- Intentional commission or omission of an act while knowing the certainty of otherwise avoidable death.
- Intentional commission of an obviously dangerous offense with full knowledge that it shall cause serious bodily injury to another.
- Knowingly initiating or participating in an activity that creates imminent dangers to the life of another person and involves a risk of death and shows the offender as being indifferent to human life.
- Taking another’s life while committing another crime, as prescribed by law to be judged as murder.
- Reckless conduct during lawful arrest or otherwise, resulting in the death of a uniformed military officer or a peace officer.
- Murder is recognized as a first-degree felony bearing a punishment of life imprisonment and a maximum fine of $10,000.
Furthermore, under the aforesaid statute, an individual is guilty of aggravated murder if he/she intentionally causes the death of another by any commission or omission of an act:
- While in jail or a correctional institution.
- While causing murder or attempted murder of two other people or more.
- While knowingly generating a grave risk of death to two other people or more.
- During the offense or aggravated offense of rape, object rape, rape of a child, forcible sodomy, robbery, object rape of a child, sodomy upon a child, forced upon sexual abuse, sexual abuse of any child, child abuse, sexual assault, sexual abuse of any child, , arson, arson, burglary, kidnapping, or child kidnapping.
- During any crime against a minor wherein the offender acted with reckless indifference to human life.
- While desecrating and abusing the body of a deceased.
- While obstructing justice by preventing an arrest or assisting in the escape.
- For any pecuniary gain.
- Hiring a third party to commit murder.
- During a repeat offense of murder or a serious felony.
- During any action to prevent a witness from testifying or presenting evidence.
- While preventing any governmental function.
- While committing murder owing to the position of authority or duty of the victim.
- By use of dangerous weapons, dangerous use of tools or destructive devices.
- By unlawful seizure of public conveyance whereby the misuse results in death.
- By using any lethal substance or poison.
- By bringing victim in harm’s way as a shield during a hostage situation.
- By committing murder in a depraved manner.
- By disfigurement or mutilation of the body of the victim.
- By murdering a minor under 14 years of age.