Facing charges of attempted murder is very serious and in the state of California, the penalties can include life in prison. Since it is considered such a serious crime that comes with life-changing consequences, it is highly-recommended that you find the best criminal defense attorney to help you face such charges.
Defining Attempted Murder
California law defines attempted murder under Penal Code (PC) 664/ PC 187. Under PC 664/PC 187, attempted murder is when you:
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- Intend to kill someone and
- You took “direct steps” to kill this person, but the person did not end up dying.
- Taking “direct steps” means that you did more than just plan or prepare to commit the murder. It means that you went beyond arranging for someone else to commit the murder as well. Taking direct steps means that you actually acted on your plans and acted on the steps it would take to commit the murder.
- When taking direct steps, you acted with the intent to kill that specific person, also known as having specific intent.
- There are two degrees of offenses that you could face under PC 664/PC 187, attempted murder;
- First-degree attempted murder is committed if the act was done deliberately, with premeditation, and willfulness to carry out the act.
- Second-degree attempted murder is committed if the act was done without deliberate, premeditated, or willful specific intent.
Although convictions for attempted murder seem straight-forward enough to get, the law is often complex. This is why it is so important that you retain an experienced criminal defense attorney immediately if you are being investigated for attempted murder or if you have already been arrested.
Even though you have been arrested for attempted murder, it does not necessarily mean that you are guilty. California law surrounding murder or attempted murder is very technical and with the right criminal defense lawyer, you could get the help you need.
Closely-Related Offense: Murder
Under California PC 187, murder is defined as the unlawful killing of a human being or fetus with malice aforethought. There are two kinds of malice aforethought: express malice and implied malice. Express malice occurs when a person unlawfully intends to kill another. Implied malice occurs when a defendant intentionally commits an act, the natural consequences of the act were dangerous to human life, and at the time he acted, he knew his act was dangerous to human life, and he acted with conscious disregard for human and/or fetal life.
There are two degrees of murder that could be charged:
- First-degree murder is the killing of someone that was completed with both premeditation and intent.
- The act was deliberate, premeditated, and willful, carried out with the full intent of killing that specific person.
- Second-degree murder is the killing of another person that was not done with deliberate intent.
- The murderous act was not deliberate, premeditated, or willful.
Other Related Offenses
- PC 246 is shooting using a firearm at a residential area/dwelling (whether inhabited or uninhabited) or in an occupied car.
- PC 26100 is a drive by shooting, for example, a disgruntled employee drives by his work place and using his rifle, opens-fire on the property.
- PC 192(a), voluntary manslaughter which can occur when the crime/killing was done in the heat of the moment/passion or during a sudden and heated fight.
The Prosecution’s Burden
In order for the prosecution to charge and convict a defendant of PC 664/ PC 187, attempted murder, they must first prove beyond a reasonable doubt that these elements of the crime took place:
- You took at least one direct step towards killing a person (or fetus), and
- You intended to kill that specific person (or fetus).
The prosecution must prove beyond a reasonable doubt that you deliberately intended to kill that person and that you took the direct steps necessary to carry out any premeditated plan or arrangements that would eventually lead to that person’s murder.
The elements of the crime for attempted murder can often be very difficult to prove without hard and direct evidence. This is because the prosecutor must prove beyond a reasonable doubt that you harbored the specific intent to kill based upon the facts and circumstances.
Who can be charged with attempted murder?
People who can be charged with attempted murder are those that were directly involved in or perpetrated the elements of the crime itself. This means that the specific intent to kill someone was attempted with deliberate, premeditated, and willful direct steps.
For example: Rudy joins a gang and as part of his initiation he must go on a drive-by shooting with a fellow gang member. They drive by a rival gang’s territory and open fire on a small group of them. There is one near-fatal injury and both Rudy and his partner are charged with attempted murder. Even though they did not have specific intent to kill any particular person of the rival gang, they did have intent to kill someone. They also took direct steps to carry out the shooting.
In this example above, they could also be brought up on the related charges of PC 26100, California’s drive-by shooting law.
For example: Bob finds out that his pregnant girlfriend wants to leave him and move back in with her parents. While waiting for her to return home from work, he begins drinking alcohol and plans how he will kill her. Once she is home and the front door is closed, he throws her to the ground, mounts her and begins to choke her. She blacks out and a pool of blood can be noticed around her pelvic area, seeping through her skirt. He did not realize that a neighbor had heard his girlfriend cry out and witnessed the scene from the living room window while calling the police.
The girlfriend survives the attack, but it resulted in her miscarrying the baby. Bob is charged with PC 664/PC 187, first-degree attempted murder of his girlfriend and PC 187 murder because his attack resulted in the death of the fetus. Bob attempted to argue that he did not intend to kill the baby; prosecutors argued that Bob intentionally committed an act, a natural consequence of attempting to kill a pregnant woman is dangerous to fetal life, at the time he acted, he knew it was dangerous to fetal life, and he acted with a conscious disregard to fetal life.
There are several defenses that a skilled and experienced criminal defense lawyer can use depending on the details of your case. If you are facing charges for PC 664/ PC 187, attempted murder, a legal defense team can determine:
- Did you have specific intent to kill?
- Did you actually take direct steps to committing murder?
- Were you wrongfully arrested or falsely accused?
- This can happen if you were mistakenly identified, but still be difficult to face if you do not have a solid alibi and proof that you are not the guilty party.
- Did you act within the realms of self-defense as defined by California’s self-defense laws?
- Before things went beyond your control, did you actually abandon your efforts to kill someone?
- Was it an accident that resulted in a person’s death?
- Did you only intend to cause physical harm to someone and the injury resulted in their death?
These are only some of the various factors that a lawyer can utilize in your defense, which could help you fight the charges or get them reduced depending on the specifics of your case.
If convicted of attempted murder, the penalties are:
- For first-degree attempted murder:
- A life sentence in a California state penitentiary;
- With the possibility of parole determined during a California parole board hearing specifically held for those who are serving life sentences.
- For second-degree attempted murder:
- 5, 7, or 9 year sentence in a state penitentiary.
Additional penalties included in an attempted murder conviction, regardless of the degree of the offense are as follows:
- Fines up to $10,000,
- Under California’s PC 29800, felon with a firearm law, you lose the right to buy/acquire, own, or ever possess a firearm, and
- Victim’s restitution.
Since attempted murder, PC 664 is considered a violent crime, it is also considered a “strike.” Under California’s Three Strike’s Law, a subsequent felony on your record will result in twice the amount of time you will need to serve due to your strike prior. If you are convicted of a third strike, you could face a mandatory minimum sentence of 25 years to life in prison depending on the nature of the charges.
Penalties for Murder
- If convicted of PC 187(a), murder in the first degree, you could face
- 25 years to life in prison, or
- A life sentence without the possibility of parole.
- If convicted of PC 187(a), murder in the second degree, you could face a number of different sentences:
- 15 years to life in prison, or
- 20 or 25 years to life in prison, or
- A life sentence without the possibility of parole.
Other Related Penalties
- PC 246 is shooting at a dwelling or in an occupied car using a firearm, regardless of whether the residence is inhabited or not and carries these penalties:
- Fines of up to $10,000,
- 6 months to 1 year in county jail, or
- 3, 5, or 7 years in a California state penitentiary.
- PC 26100 is a drive by shooting and can be charged along with attempted murder.Since attempted murder charges can be filed, especially if there is a near-fatal injury, you could face the same penalties as attempted murder charges.
- Attempted PC 192(a) voluntary manslaughter is an attempt to kill someone in the heat of passion or a sudden fight.Attempted voluntary manslaughter carries a maximum 5 1/2 year sentence in a California state prison.
It is critical that you find the right legal representation to defend you in court when facing an investigation or charges for attempted murder, PC 664/ PC 187 or murder, PC 187. If you are in need of a skilled, well-respected, and highly experienced criminal defense attorney, contact the Law Offices of Anna R. Yum.
As an award-winning and highly-rated San Diego criminal defense attorney, you can be sure that you will have a top-notch defense team fighting to reach the best possible outcome for you. If you would like more information on the aforementioned charges or want a free consultation, contact us at (619) 233-4433.