In Utah you can be charged with a crime even if you do not actually carry out the crime for which you are charged. Sounds crazy, and it can be a tough pill to swallow but many people in Utah face just that kind of odd scenario each each year. It’s referred to as the offense of attempt and is defined essentially as follows:
A person in Utah is guilty of an attempt to commit a crime if:
- The person takes a substantial step toward committing the crime; and
- The person intends to commit the crime; or the person reasonably believes his actions would constitute the crime.
So the question often arises as to what would constitute a “substantial step” toward committing the crime. The applicable statute, Utah Code Ann. 76-4-101, explains that, “conduct constitutes a substantial step if it strongly corroborates the actor’s mental state.” Meaning, if the person accused of attempting a crime clearly had the intent to commit the crime as demonstrated through his actions, the “substantial step” factor is met. Let me give you an example. Bob is charged with attempted murder. At trial that prosecution is able to present evidence that Bob pulled out a gun and fired a shot at the governor at a political rally but missed just slightly to the right. Security tackled Bob almost immediately before he could get another shot off. Under those facts the prosecution would argue that pulling out the gunning, aiming it at the governor, and actually firing a shot all constituted conduct sufficient to show Bob intended to actually kill the governor.
Defenses to Attempt
There are any number of legal defenses that may arise in an attempt case. Often much of the argument is centered on the conduct of the accused and whether or not such conduct was sufficient to prove a substantial step and intent. Sometimes individuals decide they want to commit a crime but later back out. It is often helpful to know what doesn’t constitute a defense. The Attempt Statute in Utah describes 2 issues which are not a defense of attempt. The first would be the fact that the party who attempted the crime actually succeeded in the crime. The second “non defense” is a factual or legal impossibility if the actor did not know it was factually or legally impossible to commit the crime. The first non defense is straight forward but the second warrants some explanation.
Impossibility Not a Defense
If it is impossible to actually commit the offense, but the actor didn’t know that at the time, he or she can still be charged with attempt. Going back to our example above of Bob who attempted to murder the governor. If we change the facts such that the governor speaking at the political rally wasn’t actually the governor but instead was a robot, and BOB fired the shot not knowing it was a robot, believing he was shooting at the governor, Bob could still be charged with attempted murder. Even though it would have been impossible for Bob to murder the governor, obviously, if it was a robot instead.
Resolving Your Case
At Salcido Law Firm, our team of aggressive Utah Criminal Defense Attorneys work hard to ensure your rights are protected when charged with an attempted crime. The elements the prosecution must meet are sometimes difficult to prove. We work hard to ensure you are given a fair shake in the process.