Sentencing in Capital Felony Cases in Utah

A recent news article about the death penalty in Utah prompted today’s blog about how sentencing works in capital felony cases in this state.



What is a Capital Felony?

In Utah, aggravated murder becomes a capital felony if the prosecutor files (with the court) a notice of intent to seek the death penalty. That is the only way someone can be charged with a capital felony in our state.

A person can commit aggravated murder in many ways, from killing to prevent a person from testifying in a legal matter to using a weapon of mass destruction.

Sentencing in Capital Felony Cases

When a person pleads guilty to or is convicted of a capital felony, he may be sentenced to death, 25 years to life in prison or life in prison without the possibility of parole.

Before a jury can sentence a person to death, they must come to a unanimous decision after considering all aggravating and mitigating circumstances. Even then, they must be persuaded beyond a reasonable doubt that the aggravating circumstances outweigh the mitigating circumstances and that imposing the death penalty is justified and appropriate.

A large majority of Utahns support the death penalty, more so than throughout the rest of the United States. Nevertheless, most prosecutors in Utah don’t make a habit of seeking the death penalty—possibly due in large part to the great expense and time that a death penalty case can take both in dollars and manpower.

What’s Your Opinion?

How do you feel about the death penalty? Do you believe the Bible’s theory of “an eye for an eye?” Perhaps you think that taking one life doesn’t justify taking another life. There are about as many views on the death penalty as there are people in the world.

You don’t have to be charged with a death penalty crime to warrant the help of a top Utah criminal defense attorney. Talk to an attorney today about getting the legal advice you need in your particular circumstances.

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