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Utah Murder Laws

Although many states divide the crime of murder into first and second degree murder laws, the Beehive State only has murder and aggravated murder. Aggravated murder carries heavier penalties and includes the crime of murder in addition to other elements that make it a more serious crime. The following is a brief summary of Utah murder laws.

Utah Murder Laws:

The following table outlines murder laws in Utah.

Code Sections UTAH CODE ANN. §§ 76-5-202, 76-5-203
What’s Prohibited?

Murder is causing the death of another person under any of the following circumstances:

  • Intentionally or knowingly
  • While committing an obviously dangerous act with the intent of causing serious bodily injury
  • Knowingly engaging in conduct which creates a grave risk of death to another person and under circumstances which evidence a depraved indifference to human life
  • While engaged in the commission, attempted commission, or immediate flight from the commission or attempted commission of a select felony or as party to any of those felonious crimes
  • Recklessly causing the death of a peace officer or uniformed military service member while committing or attempting to commit assault against a peace officer or uniformed military service member or while interfering with a peace officer who is making a lawful arrest

Aggravated murder is intentionally or knowingly causing the death of another person under any of the following circumstances:

  • While the defendant is in jail or a correctional institution
  • The act caused the murder or attempted murder of two or more
  • While knowingly creating a great risk of death to two or more
  • While committing or attempting to commit aggravated robbery, robbery, rape, rape of a child, object rape, object rape of a child, forcible sodomy, sodomy upon a child, forcible sexual abuse, sexual abuse of a child, aggravated sexual abuse of a child, child abuse, aggravated sexual assault, aggravated arson, arson, aggravated burglary, burglary, aggravated kidnapping, kidnapping, or child kidnapping
  • The murder was a result of child abuse, child kidnapping, rape of a child, object rape of a child, sodomy of a child, sexual abuse, or aggravated sexual abuse of a child and the defendant was acting with reckless indifference to human life and a major participant in the underlying crime
  • While abusing or desecrating a dead human body
  • In order to avoid or prevent an arrest or assist in an escape
  • For pecuniary gain
  • Through a hired third party
  • Upon a prior conviction of a particularly violent crime such as aggravated murder, attempted aggravated murder, murder, attempted murder, aggravated assault, mayhem, kidnapping, rape, forcible sodomy, sodomy of a child, aggravated sexual assault, aggravated arson, aggravated burglary, aggravated robbery, felony discharge of a firearm, or any other crime which would constitute one of the above offenses if convicted in Utah
  • In order to prevent a witness from testifying or a person
    from providing evidence
  • In retaliation against a person for acting as a witness or providing evidence or to disrupt/hinder law enforcement or a governmental function
  • The defendant knew/should have known the victim was a public official, a candidate for public office, officer, jailer, prison official, firefighter, judge, court official, or juror and the victim was on duty or the murder was related to the victim's position
  • By means of a destructive device such as a bomb which was planted, hidden, or concealed or a weapon of mass destruction
  • While assuming control of an aircraft, train, or other public conveyance through threat or force with the intent of redirecting or exerting control over the conveyance or obtaining something of value for release of the conveyance, passengers, or crew members
  • By using a poison or any lethal substance
  • The victim was used as a shield or for ransom or held as a hostage
  • The murder was especially heinous, atrocious, cruel, or completed in an exceptionally depraved manner
  • The defendant dismembered, mutilated, or disfigured the victim's body in a manner demonstrating the actor's depravity of mind
  • The victim was under 14 years of age (and not an unborn child)

If the defendant had reasonable belief of a legal justification or excuse for his or her conduct under the circumstances, then the crime may be reduced from murder to manslaugher or from attempted murder to attempted manslaughter. An example is if the defendant was acting under extreme emotion disturbance (a.k.a. heat of passion) at the time of the killing.


Murder is a first-degree felony punishable by life imprisonment and up to $10,000 in fines.

Aggravated murder is punishable by death or life imprisonment. If the death penalty is sought, it is a capital felony. Otherwise, it is a first-degree felony.

Utah Murder Laws: Related Resources

If you or someone you know has been charged with murder, you may want to contact an Utah criminal defense attorney. You may also want to visit Findlaw's sections on Utah Capital Punishment Laws for more information on the death penalty in Utah. You can also visit FindLaw's sections on First Degree Murder Overview, First Degree Murder Penalties and Sentencing, Second Degree Murder Overview, and Second Degree Penalties and Sentencing for more articles and information on this topic.

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