Attempted Murder

If you are accused of attempted murder, it means you directly participated in trying to end someone’s life but failed. This is a severe offense in California that is charged as either attempted murder in the first degree or second degree. The penalties for this offense are also severe that include extended jail time, hefty fines, and earning a strike, among other punishments.

Despite the severity of the crime, you have a legal right to a defense against the charges. Engaging an experienced criminal attorney like The Los Angeles Criminal Defense Attorney will help you in fighting for a favorable outcome of your case.

Defining Attempted Murder According to PEN 664/187(a)

Attempted murder occurs when you intend to kill a person and make an effort to do it. Attempted murder can either be premeditated or any other type of trying to kill another person. For instance, you may decide to poison, stab, or strangle a person to kill them, but your efforts fail. When all your efforts killing the person fail, it is called attempted murder, but when you succeed, it is murder.

However, being accused of this crime is not enough to conclude you committed the offense. According to the definition of the offense, to get convicted, the prosecutor must determine two aspects of the crime. These are:

  • You directly took a step to kill another person but failed in your attempt, and
  • You had the intention of killing the person, known as malice aforethought.

It is essential to understand that you can get charged with attempted murder if you tried to kill a fetus in the state of California.

There are some phrases or terms used in describing this crime and are critical to understanding them. These are:

Direct Step

When the law says you must have taken a direct step, it means you more than planned for the crime. This means, after planning, you auctioned the plan, and the offense would have happened, were it not for an outside element interfering with its execution.

A direct plan of action, in this case, involves anything that was directed in committing the offense and can include:

  • Directly stabbing the victim in their stomach or chest
  • You shot a gun at the alleged victim
  • You paid someone to end the other person’s life

You can also prepare for the offense; however, these are not considered direct steps towards attempting murder. The preparation may include:

  • Purchasing a knife
  • Having your gun loaded
  • Researching online on hiring a hitman

The Intent to Kill

For you to get convicted of this offense, the prosecutor must show that you intended to kill the alleged victim. If you intended to injure or cause harm to the person, you could not be guilty of attempted murder.

In showing your intent, the prosecutor will show where the injuries were located in the victim’s body. If the injuries were concentrated on the victim’s upper body, it is an indicator that you preconceived to murder the victim. This is more so because of the location of a person’s vital organs.

If the injuries were more on the lower body, it indicates that you intended to injure the person and not to kill them. Even when you meant to kill the person, but the injuries you inflicted were on the lower body, it would be challenging for the prosecutor to get you convicted on attempted murder.

In a lot of cases, the victim may not have suffered any injuries, but the circumstances of the offense indicate your intention to kill them. In such a case, the prosecutor will rely on the aspects of the offense in showing your intent to murder.

For instance, Peter was doing business with his best friend, Mark. When they got paid, Mark swindled Peter of his share. Peter feels offended and plans to confront Mark. He then goes to see Mark, but instead, Mark draws a gun and shoots at Peter but misses. He tries again, but the gun is jammed. Peter goes to the police and reports an attempt on his life by Mark. Although he was not injured, the circumstances of the incident suggest Mark intended to kill Peter had the gun not jammed.

The law requires a prosecutor only to show that you intended to kill a person, irrespective of who it was. In most cases, the target of the offense is typically available, but it is not a requirement in convicting you of the crime.

For instance, Trey is a leader of a gang group and feels offended by the leader of another gang group. He decides to take revenge by killing the opposing gang members, and he plans to carry out a drive-by shooting where the rival gang operates from. He finds them and shoots at them but misses or fails to kill any person. However, there might not have been a particular target, but Trey’s actions were towards attempting to kill another person. In this case, Trey will get convicted of attempted murder.

Kill Zone Theory

This theory in attempted murder is recognizable in California. This means, if you attempted to murder a person and there was a possibility of killing others in the process, you will be held accountable for the attempted murder of the others.

For instance, your girlfriend left you, but you suspect it was for her supervisor at the restaurant she works at. You plan to kill her as revenge and make a bomb which you take to the restaurant and leave it there. If the bomb goes off, it will kill your ex-girlfriend and the people in the restaurant. Unfortunately for you, the bomb doesn’t go off. In this case, it does not matter if the target was only your girlfriend. If the prosecutor proves your intentions, you will get convicted for attempting to murder every patron and worker in the restaurant.

For you to get convicted of the offense under the kill zone, it is not a requirement to know if others would have been victims as well. For instance, in the above example, you may have known that your ex-girlfriend closes the restaurant each day with her supervisor. You place the bomb intending to kill just the two of them. Unfortunately, on that day, there was a meeting for all the staff members after work. If the others were eight, you would face charges for attempting to kill all ten people in the restaurant despite your intentions of killing only two.

Common Legal Defenses for Attempted Murder Charges

When faced with attempted murder charges, you need to prepare a strong defense against the allegations and avoid the severe penalties for the offense. Your experienced criminal defense lawyer will study your case and the evidence to formulate viable arguments. The defenses for this offense depend on the circumstances of the crime. Some commonly used defenses are:

You Specifically Had No Intent to Murder

Based on the description of attempted murder, you must have had a specific intent to kill the person to be found guilty under this statute. If you had no such purposes, then attempted murder never occurred. Instead, you may have intended to:

  • Hurt, injure or main the supposed victim according to PEN 203, Mayhem or
  • Cause the victim to be afraid, which means you get charged with PEN 240 Assault or PEN 245, Assault With a Deadly Weapon but not attempted murder.

If the prosecutor is unable to prove your intention to murder the person, you cannot be found guilty of the offense. Your lawyer will challenge the prosecutor’s evidence by providing expert witnesses that will testify in your support.

You Took No Direct or Purposeful Step

Preparing to commit murder does not constitute an attempt to carry out the crime according to the law. If you purchased the needed weapons, came out with a comprehensive plan, and even how to get rid of the body, you are not guilty of the offense if you never attempted to kill the person. A deliberate attempt towards killing the person must be carried out for you to be found guilty of the crime.

If you only planned and prepared but decided against it or were discovered before carrying out the act, you are not guilty of attempted murder. Making a direct attempt is critical in convicting you of attempted murder in California.

On the other hand, you may have taken a direct or intentional step but abandoned the plan afterward. For instance, you went to the alleged victim’s place, grabbed them, and tried to stab them but stopped or decided against it. In this case, you will be charged with attempted murder, but your criminal attorney can negotiate for a lesser charge during plea bargaining. Your abandoning your intentions shows that you regretted the actions and were remorseful, which can earn you a charge reduction.

Mistaken Identity

Sometimes you can be mistakenly identified as the perpetrator of the crime. For instance, if the alleged victim and yourself had a misunderstanding and they get attacked by a thief, they may assume it was you. It is even more so if the person that attacks them resembles you, and they wrongly identify you in a police lineup or accuse you because of the underlying misunderstanding.

Your defense lawyer knows how to investigate the allegations and get you exonerated of the charges. Your lawyer can also argue the case to create a doubt in the minds of the jury. This may result in the dropping of the charges against you.


The laws on self-defense allow for you to use force within reason to defend yourself or others in danger of bodily harm. If you reasonably believed that you were in danger and in your attempt to protect yourself, you almost killed a person, it is not attempted murder to defend oneself.

For instance, if you were walking home from work using a lonely street and a masked person with a weapon accosted you, you likely feel your life is in danger. However, you have background training in martial arts, and you overpower the man and take his knife and stab him instead. Even when the injury you inflicted could have caused death, but the person never died, you are not guilty of attempted murder.

According to the law, you were not obliged to run, but you used reasonable force to defend yourself against imminent danger to your life. Your lawyer can determine this by producing eyewitnesses to the incident, surveillance videos, if any, or medical reports showing how you were attacked.

You Had No Probable Cause

Even as you plan to murder a person, you must have a reason for it. If you had no reason to kill the alleged victim, it is highly unlikely that you would carry out the offense. Your defense attorney can challenge the prosecutor to show the reason why you would have tried to kill the alleged victim. If there was no probable reason to cause you to want to kill the victim, then you are not guilty of attempted murder. However, if you caused injuries to the victim, you may face charges on a lesser offense.

The Offense Was An Accident

You can face attempted murder charges when an incident by mistake, causing injuries to the alleged victim, happened. For instance, if you were cleaning your gun and accidentally it went off injuring a person, this is an accident. However, the victim may accuse you of attempting to murder them, and you get charged with the offense.

Another example would be a hunting accident. If you went hunting with your friends and you thought you saw an animal and aimed at it but instead shot one of your friends, it is an accident. You had no intention of hurting your friend and therefore are not guilty of attempted murder.

Your lawyer must, however, challenge the element of intent, creating a doubt in the jury resulting in the dismissal of the charges.

Penalties If Convicted of Attempted Murder

When you get accused of attempted murder, you get prosecuted on felony charges that are severely punished in California. As earlier stated, the prosecutor can charge you with first degree attempted murder or second degree.

Penalties for First-Degree Attempted Murder

After the prosecutor decides to charge you with first-degree murder, the penalties are more severe than those of second degree attempted murder. With this offense, it means you willfully and deliberately preconceived committing the crime only that your plans failed. If convicted of first degree attempted murder, you face the following possible punishments:

  • State incarceration for life, and
  • A possibility to get paroled depending on the outcome from a parole board hearing.

If the alleged victim of the crime was on duty, you must serve a minimum of fifteen years in the state prison before a parole hearing. The victims that will earn you fifteen years minimum sentence include:

  • Peace or police officers,
  • Firefighters, or
  • Protected persons under the law.

Second Degree Attempted Murder Penalties

When an attempted murder does not meet the criteria for a first degree attempted murder, it automatically becomes a second degree attempted murder. If you get convicted of this offense, you will likely face five or seven or nine years of state imprisonment.

Additionally, whether convicted on first or second degree attempted murder charge, you will face other consequences that include:

  • Paying restitution to the alleged victim,
  • Paying a cash fine, not over $10,000, and
  • Losing your right to owning or having a gun, according to PEN 29800, where a convicted felon is denied gun rights.

The Three Strikes Law in Attempted Murder Charges

Violent crimes in California earn the perpetrator a strike according to the three-strikes law. When you obtain a strike, it means that your penalties for the crime or another subsequent felony are enhanced. If you get convicted on attempted murder, the offense is categorized as violent, earning you a strike. If you get a strike for the second time, your sentence will be doubled. A third time will earn you at least 25 years of imprisonment to life.

Gang Enhancement

If you are a member of a gang and you tried to kill a person on behalf of the group, the penalties you will receive are enhanced upon a conviction. Aside from the standard sentence for attempted murder, when a street gang is involved, you will receive fifteen more years to life imprisonment. This new sentence runs concurrently with the standard penalties for attempted murder you receive.

10-20-Life “Use a Gun and You are Done” PEN 12022.53

If you are accused of attempting to kill a person using a gun, your sentence is enhanced. The extra sentence you will receive includes:

  • Ten years imprisonment for gun use,
  • Twenty years imprisonment if you fired the gun, or
  • Twenty-five years to life imprisonment if you killed a person using a firearm or caused significant injuries to them.

Consequences on Your Immigration Status

Violent crimes in California subject a non-citizen to immigration consequences when convicted of them. If you are charged with attempted murder, it a violent crime or an aggravated felony that can result in deportation. When you are a non-citizen faced with these allegations, getting an experienced attorney to fight these allegations is critical in your remaining in the U.S or getting deported.

Related Offenses

If charged with attempting to kill a person, there are other associated crimes that you can get prosecuted for at the same time or instead of attempted murder. Some of these offenses include:

Shooting at a Car with Occupants or a Dwelling – PEN 26100

When you fire a gun at a person or people, it shows you intended to kill. When you drive by and shoot at a vehicle or a house with occupants, it means you intended to kill them. If none of the people dies, you will be charged with attempted murder and the crime of drive-by shooting. This means you will receive two sentences that you serve consecutively.

PEN 206 – Torture

If you inflict significant bodily harm to a person that is cruel or results in extreme pain that can cause death, you can be charged with two crimes as well. In this case, if the victim survives the torture, you will get charged with attempted murder PEN 664 and torture PEN 206. The penalties, when convicted of both offenses, are enhanced and served consecutively.

Attempted Voluntary Manslaughter

The crime of voluntary manslaughter is found under PEN 192(a). This offense involves killing a person upon a quick and unplanned quarrel or in the heat of passion. When you are charged with attempted murder, but you never planned it, the charges can get reduced to attempted voluntary manslaughter. However, this is only possible if the following are true:

  • You tried to kill the person suddenly and in the height of emotions, or
  • You honestly but unreasonably believed that you carried out the act to defend yourself.

If you are found guilty of this offense, the judge will sentence you to imprisonment for a period not exceeding five years. This is a lesser crime often used in plea bargain deals when one is faced with attempted murder allegations.

Offenses in Domestic Violence

Sometimes, the law relating to domestic violence can result in you getting charged with attempted murder. This happens if you have an intimate relationship with the alleged victim or are spouses, and you get accused of trying to kill them. In this case, you will face charges of both domestic violence and attempted murder. The penalties will be enhanced if found guilty of both offenses.

PEN 401 – Aiding a Suicide

When you assist a person in ending their life, it is a criminal offense even when the person survives. However, the crime of helping with suicide and attempted murder can be challenging to establish. For instance, if your friend asks you to push them over a building because they want to do and you do it, you charged with attempted murder. On the other hand, if you provide them with the weapon they need to commit suicide, but they don’t die, you face charges of attempting to aid suicide.

Find a Criminal Lawyer Near Me

Attempted murder charges are serious, requiring the aggressive defense to avoid harsh penalties. If you are faced with these charges or a loved one is, finding an experienced attorney in California is a priority and critical in defeating the allegations. At The Los Angeles Criminal Defense Attorney, we have extensive experience in criminal law and are passionate about defending our clients. Call us today at 310-564-2605, and let us discuss your case in detail.

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