Utah Criminal Defense - Salt Lake Criminal Attorney
Utah Code 76-2-105 - Transferred Intent
Certain criminal offenses in Utah require a specific intent to cause
harm, injury, or damage to either a person or property. For these offenses, in addition to
the intent to commit an act, the prosecutor must prove also that the
defendant had the specific intent to cause some harmful result.
Under Utah Code 76-2-105, a defendant's intent to cause one specific
harm may be "transferred" if it turns out that some other harm resulted
from the defendant's conduct. Utah's "transferred intent" statutes states, "Where intentionally
causing a result is an element of an offense, that element is
established even if a different person than the actor intended was
killed, injured, or harmed, or different property than the actor
intended was damaged or otherwise affected."
effect of this "transferred intent" law is close a potential loophole
whereby a defendant might claim innocense based on the intent to harm
someone else. In plain English, this law says that it does not matter
that you intended to harm someone else. If you intended harm, and harm
was caused, you are responsible and can be found guilty as to the
victim that was actually harmed.
Example: Transferred Intent in the Context
of Criminal Mischief
Consider the following hypothetical scenario involving a case of
throws a rock at the side of Beth's car as it drives down the road.
Because Albert has bad aim, he misses Beth's car. Instead, the rock
bounces off the pavement and hits the windshield of Carl's car. The
windshield is shattered, causing Carl to lose control of his vehicle.
Carl crashes into a parked car belonging to David. Both Carl's
car and David's care are totaled as a result of the accident.
may actually had only the intent to cause a small dent to the side of
Beth's car. Assuming the repair costs of such a dent were under $500,
Albert would have been faced with a class B misdemeanor
criminal mischief (for intentionally causing damage to Beth's property).
Because Albert's conduct actually caused damage to property owned by
Carl and David, and assuming that the total value of damage to both
cars is more than $5,000, Albert can instead be charged with a
second-degree felony charge of criminal mischief.
the principles of transferred intent, it does not matter that Beth's
property was not actually damaged. Because Albert had the intent to
cause damage to Beth's property, and because Albert's conduct actually
resulted in damage to the property of Carl and David, Albert's intent
is considered to be transferred from Beth to Carl and David.
Thus, Albert can be criminally charged with felony
Example: Transferred Intent in the Context of Aggravated
Assault and Homicide
Consider next the following more complicated hypothetical scenario:
Alex shoots a gun at
Bob, intending only to wound Bob. Alex has bad aim, and misses Bob.
Chad, happens to be standing with a crowd of people
immediately behind Bob. The bullet misses Bob, but Chad is grazed by
the bullet and receives only a minor injury.
The use of a dangerous weapon (e.g. a gun) in committing an assault
constitutes an aggravated assault
under Utah criminal law. In this
hypothetical case, Alex did not intend to cause any injury to Chad. But
under Utah Code 76-2-104, Alex's intent is considered to be transferred
from Bob to Chad. Alex can therefore be charged with an aggravated
assault against Chad.
Utah's statutes defining assault and aggravated assault involve conduct
that actually causes injury as well as conduct that is intended only as
a threat. Thus, it is also conceivable that a prosecutor might file
charges of aggravated assault against Alex for both the threatened
action against Bob and the actual injury to Chad.
Consider now the following variation on the above hypothetical:
Instead of wounding the
intended target Bob, the bullet from Alex's gun grazes Chad, then hits
Don who is also standing with the crowd of people behind Bob. Don is
wounded in the chest, and dies as a result of the gunshot.
In this hypothetical case, Alex may still face charges of aggravated
assault against Bob for the threatened use of a dangerous weapon, and
against Chad based on transferred intent. But Alex may also be charged
for causing the death of Don.
A murder charge in this hypothetical case need not depend on principles
of transferred intent. Instead, a prosecutor can look to the provisions
of Utah's murder statute (76-5-203) which allows for a first-degree
murder charge to be filed not only in a case where a defendant
intentionally causes the death of another, but also in a case where the
defendant acts with "depraved indifference to human life" and engages
in conduct which "creates a grave risk of death to another." Utah
courts have held that shooting a firearm into a crowd of people meets
this "depraved indifference" standard, even if the defendant does not
have the actual intent to cause a death.
Choosing a Utah Criminal Defense Attorney in Salt
assistance of an experienced criminal
can be vital to developing and implementing
a successful strategy for defending against criminal charges. If you
are facing prosecution in a Utah criminal case, the consequences
Based in Salt Lake City, criminal lawyer Stephen Howard offers legal
services to clients throughout Utah. His defense
have included not guilty verdicts and dismissals
for some of the most serious charges on the books in Utah.
today to arrange
for an initial confidential consultation.
RELATED CRIMINAL CODE SECTIONS
76-2-101 - Mens Rea and Actus Reus
Utah Code 76-2-202 - Accomplice LiabilityMore Utah Criminal Code Provisions