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Accomplice Liability and Criminal Conspiracy in Utah

Can I be prosecuted with a crime in Utah for someone else's actions?

Utah criminal charges are sometimes filed against a person for something that someone else did. Some of these cases involve mistaken identity, where the defendant is wrongly identified as the person who committed the crime. Other cases may involve false allegations, where an alleged victim falsely accuses the defendant. But there is another class of criminal charges where a person can lawfully be charged with a crime based on allegations that another person engaged in criminal activity.

If you have been accused of or charged with a crime, it is vital to have the assistance of an experienced criminal defense attorney. Based in Salt Lake City, criminal lawyer Stephen Howard offers legal services to clients throughout Utah. Contact us now to arrange for an initial confidential consultation.

Accomplice Liability for Crimes in Utah

Salt Lake Criminal Defense LawyerUtah Code 76-2-202 sets out the standards for what is often called "accomplice" or "party" liability. Accomplice liability under the Utah criminal code provides that a defendant who "solicits, requests, commands, encourages, or intentionally aids another person to engage in conduct which constitutes an offense" can be held criminally liable as a party, convicted, and punished just as if the defendant had personally committed the crime.

Criminal responsibility under accomplice liability principles can attach even if the person who actually committed the crime has not been prosecuted or convicted, and even if that person has been acquitted been acquitted and found not guilty of the crime by jury after a full trial of the case.  (See Utah Code 76-2-203.)

Penalties for Accomplice Liability in Utah

The potential penalties for conviction as an accomplice or as a party are identical with the maximum penalties for conviction as a principle. For example, if the underlying crime would be a third-degree felony, then a conviction as an accomplice can also be for a third-degree felony. The defendant in such a case could still be sentenced to prison - even thought the defendant did not actually commit the underlying crime.

Conspiracy to Commit Crime in Utah

Utah's accomplice liability statute is commonly used to prosecute a person who did not directly commit a crime. A less-often used provision of the Utah criminal code is found in section 76-4-201, and deals with conspiracies to commit a crime. Under this section, a person can be guilty of conspiracy when that person, "intending that conduct constituting a crime be performed, agrees with one or more persons to engage in or cause the performance of the conduct and any one of them commits an overt act in pursuance of the conspiracy."

In order to prove a conspiracy charge in most cases, the prosecutor must be able to present more than mere evidence of discussions or a plan to commit a crime. The prosecutor must prove that some "overt act" was committed in furtherance of the planned criminal conduct. Proof of such an overt act could be supported by evidence that one of the conspirators purchased or otherwise obtained a weapon intended for use in committing a violent crime, produced a document intended to be used in committing a fraud, purchased spray paint intended to be used in committing vandalism or criminal mischief, etc.

The Utah criminal code does provide an exception to the "overt act" requirement in cases involving a capital felony, a felony against a person, burglary, robbery, or arson. In such cases, the prosecutor is not required to present proof of any overt act in furtherance of the conspiracy. The planned conspiracy alone can be sufficient evidence to support a conspiracy conviction.

Penalties for Criminal Conspiracy in Utah

Under the Utah criminal code, a conviction for criminal conspiracy is generally one step lower than the underlying crime would be if that crime were actually committed. For example, a conspiracy to commit a second-degree felony would by punishable as a third-degree felony. A conspiracy to commit a third-degree felony would be punishable as a class A misdemeanor.

Two exceptions to this general rule exist for class C misdemeanors and certain first-degree felonies. A conviction of a conspiracy to commit a class C misdemeanor is still punishable as a class C misdemeanor, but with a maximum potential penalty one-half that of an ordinary class C misdemeanor. A conviction for conspiracy to commit a first-degree felony child kidnapping or any of the first-degree felony sexual offenses under Title 76, Chapter 5, Part 4 of the Utah criminal code is still treated as a first-degree felony with life in prison as a possible sentence, but with the minimum prison term reduced to three years.

Finding a Utah Criminal Lawyer in Salt Lake City

If you are facing criminal charges in Utah, an experienced criminal defense attorney can be a critical part of putting together a successful defense strategy. Based in Salt Lake City, Stephen Howard provides legal services to clients throughout Utah. His track record as a criminal lawyer includes not guilty verdicts, dismissals, and appellate reversals in some of the most serious charges on the books in Utah.

Contact us today to arrange for an initial consultation with Stephen Howard.

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Serving Salt Lake, Davis, Weber, Utah, Cache, Tooele, Summit, Box Elder, and Wasatch Counties, and all of Utah.

Attorney Stephen Howard practices as part of the Canyons Law Group, LLC and Stephen W. Howard, PC.

Offices in Salt Lake and Davis Counties
560 South 300 East, Suite 200, Salt Lake City, UT 84111
952 S. Main St., Suite A, Layton, UT 84041

Call now to arrange for a confidential initial consultation with an experienced and effective Utah criminal defense lawyer.

In Salt Lake City, call 801-449-1409.
In Davis County, call 801-923-4345.

Stephen W. Howard, PC

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