HB 84: Making Felony Fleeing a Predicate Offense to Murder
This bill passed the House 52-12 but was not voted on in the Senate.
Murder is one of the most serious criminal offenses under Utah law. Not to be confused with manslaughter—a felony of the 2nd degree—murder is a 1st-degree felony that carries a far more serious sentence. It is a charge reserved for those who intentionally and knowingly kill another human being.
However, there are some exceptions to the intent rule for a murder charge. Some of these exceptions are called “predicate offenses,” which are preceding offenses that include some of the elements of the more serious crimes.
Representative Paul Ray is looking to expand the definition of a predicate offense with House Bill 84. The bill would classify felony fleeing as a predicate to murder. Under HB 84, if the driver of a car fails to stop at the commands of an officer’s flashing lights, they could be charged with first-degree murder if they subsequently killed someone, even if they had no intent to do so.
Someone who unintentionally kills another individual should not be grouped in with—and punished the same as—those who intentionally and knowingly kill. Although expanding the list of those who may be charged with murder may be convenient for prosecutorial power, this is not an argument that justifies expanding the definition to include an unintentional death caused after fleeing from police.
Ignoring an officer is already a crime; fleeing from an officer before accidentally killing someone cannot be equated with the intent to kill.