If you are being charged with attempted murder in Los Angeles or anywhere in California, or think you may soon be charged with this crime, you need to act fast and avail yourself of the best possible criminal defense lawyer. The penalties for an attempted murder conviction in California can be very steep, and having this crime on your permanent criminal record will make life very difficult going forward.
We at Leah Legal will know how to build you a solid defense and win your case. We have won numerous attempted murder defense cases in the past, and we will fight tenaciously and apply our full legal expertise in your best interests as well.
Contact Leah Legal anytime 24/7 by calling 818-484-1100 for a free consultation and immediate attention to your case!
How Is Attempted Murder Defined Under California Law?
Under Penal Code Section 664, California defines, criminalizes, penalizes the act of attempted murder. Attempted murder is just that, an attempt, not merely a wish, contemplation, or musing about killing someone else - but an actual attempt at carrying out such a criminal desire.
The elements of the crime of attempted murder are only two:
- You had an intention to kill another person.
- You took a "direct step" toward carrying out that intention.
Proving that a person intended to kill another person can be very difficult. If the intention was actually to kill but to injure (even severely), it falls short of attempted murder. In general, prosecutors try to argue that an attack on the upper body where the vital organs are located indicates an attempt to kill, while an assault on the lower body indicates the intent was merely to injure. But obviously, those are only circumstantial pieces of evidence and rules of thumb that can't necessarily prove your intention.
If there was no injury whatsoever done to another person, then it becomes even more difficult to prove an intent to kill.
Also, the intention to kill usually has to be directed toward a specific individual to make an attempted murder charge stick. But there are exceptions to this. For example, if it can be proved you intended to kill "someone," that is sufficient for an attempted murder conviction. This might happen where someone does, say, a drive-by shooting and sprays bullets all around trying to kill people but not necessarily being concerned about which particular person or persons are killed as a result. This is called a "kill zone" type of attempted murder.
Finally, a "direct step" toward trying to kill another human being must have been taken. That means more than just planning, plotting, or even preparing to do it. It means taking one or more steps to actually put the plan into action - in such a way that unless something intervenes, the murder will be completed as planned. Examples of a direct step might be firing a firearm, stabbing with a switchblade, or paying someone else to commit the murder.
Possible Penalties for Attempted Murder in California
PC 664 Attempted Murder is a felony crime in California. It can be either a first or second degree attempted murder, mirroring these same distinctions with PC 187 Murder. In general, incarceration time is around half for attempted murder as it would be for a corresponding murder crime.
First degree attempted murder occurs when the attempt was "willful, deliberated, and premeditated," while second degree lacks those elements. For first degree attempted murder, you can get a sentence as high as life imprisonment but with possible parole. If the attempt to kill was against a police officer or someone else in a "protected class" while carrying out his/her duties, there is also a 15 year mandatory actual prison stay.
For second degree attempted murder, you can get from 5 to 9 years in state prison.
For both first and second degree attempted murder, aside from the prison time, there is also a fine of up to $10,000, the requirement for full victim restitution, and the loss of all firearm rights by the perpetrator (as with other California felony crimes.)
Since attempted murder is a violent felony, it is a "strike" under our state's Three Strikes law. A second strike receives twice the prison time it would otherwise have received, and a third strike is punishable by from 25 years to life in state prison.
Under PC 186.22, if you commit attempted murder in connection with a street gang, a sentencing enhancement of 15 years to life can be added to the PC 664 attempted murder sentence. If you are an immigrant and commit attempted murder, you are very likely to be deported.
If you use a firearm in the commission of attempted murder, under PC 12022.53, you will also receive sentencing enhancements. For simply using a gun, it's 10 extra years; for using and firing it, it's 20 extra years; and for causing great bodily injury or death with a gun, you will get 25 years to life added to the sentence.
Common Defense Strategies
At Leah Legal, we are familiar with the most effective defense strategies to use against an attempted murder charge, and we have won many cases for other clients using the following (and other) defenses:
- Lack of Specific Intent
If the prosecution cannot prove that you had a specific intent to kill another person or persons, or a random person(s) in a "kill zone," then they cannot gain a conviction against you for attempted murder. If they can prove an intent to maim, inflict serious injury on, or intimidate the victim, then a conviction for a lesser crime might be possible, but not for attempted murder at least.
- No Direct Step Taken
Should the prosecution prove that the defendant planned a killing, bought the murder weapons, arranged the plan, discussed the plan, and done everything else except take even one small step to actually put that plan into action, then under California law, it's not attempted murder.
Up to that point, a person could still abandon the plan of murder; but once the "direct step" line is crossed, you can be convicted for PC 664 Attempted Murder. In some cases, if you took a direct step but then gave up the plan and no harm followed, the prosecution might agree to a plea deal.
- Self Defense
If you act to defend yourself (or another person) from imminent bodily harm, that is self-defense or defense of others. If another person is attempting to kill you and to defend yourself, you attempt to kill them - and you did not provoke the incident, then you are innocent. You cannot be convicted of attempted murder.
- False Accusation
Sometimes, someone will file an attempted murder charge against someone that is totally fabricated or exaggerated. It might be done, for example, to gain custody of a child when a divorce case is already underway or out of a spirit of revenge. Leah Legal will know how to cross examine false witnesses to expose them for what they are and clear your name.
- Mistaken Identity
When someone attempts to kill another person but does it in the dark or with a mask or other disguise on, it's easy for the wrong person to get accused of the crime. It could even be a framing job. Or, because a person robbed a store in the area (for example) and an attempted murder took place in the same neighborhood around the same time, he might be assumed to have done both crimes, though he did not.
- Illegal Search & Seizure
If evidence the prosecution is relying on was illegally obtained by police, we can file a pretrial motion to have it declared inadmissible in court. This often results in the charge being dismissed. And if any other violations of your rights took place, this also often can help to win your case.
Other Related Offenses
Here are 7 other related offenses that often are charged instead of or along with an attempted murder charge in California:
- Drive-By Shootings (PC 26100): Anyone shooting from a car that is moving or temporarily halted and then speeding off and shooting at other people can be convicted of PC 26100. Shooting the gun towards people is enough to count as targeting them even if the perpetrator didn't care who exactly was killed.
- Reckless Shooting (PC 246): If you do basically the same thing as in a drive by shooting only it's not from a moving car - but it's targeted at an inhabited building or a currently occupied vehicle, that's a violation of PC 246. In most cases, those charged with PC 246 will also be charged with PC 664 Attempted Murder.
- Solicitation to Murder (PC 653): Making a request of another person to get them to kill someone is not yet attempted murder, but it is a crime in its own right. If you set the plan fully in motion, you could still be charged with attempted murder, but otherwise, it's a serious but still lesser offense than PC 664. Many attempted murder cases end in a plea bargain down from attempted murder to solicitation to murder.
- Attempt to Aid Suicide (PC 401): Under PC 401, it is illegal to even attempt to help someone else kill him or her self. Assisting a suicide that succeeds is murder, if say, you push someone off a skyscraper just because he/she asks you to do so. But, if you provide a gun to someone who asks for it specifically to commit suicide, that would be aiding/abetting suicide. If the suicide fails, you could be charged with attempt to assist a suicide instead.
- Human Torture (PC 206): If someone purposefully inflicts extreme bodily pain on another person, it could be charged as torture under PC 206. On the other hand, as torturers may intend to kill their victims in the end or not care if they die in the process of torturing them, an attempted murder charge might be added by the prosecution as well.
- Domestic Violence. California has a number of different laws against domestic violence, and there are some cases where the victim also accuses the defendant of trying to kill him or her. If great bodily injury was inflicted and a firearm, knife, or other lethal weapon was wielded during the incident, there is a greater chance of attempted murder being charged along with the domestic violence charge.
- Attempted Voluntary Manslaughter (PC 192): When someone kills another person in the heat of the moment without premeditation OR in a mistaken, unreasonable, but honestly held fear that the other person was about to kill him/her, then voluntary manslaughter would be charged instead of murder. If the other person did not die, then it would be attempted voluntary manslaughter.
Of course, there are many other charges that could come up in an attempted murder case, but these are the major ones that might be made additional charges or be available as possible charge reductions in a plea deal.
Contacting an Attempted Murder Attorney Near Me
At Leah Legal, we don't shy away from the "tough cases" like some other law firms. We know how to win against the most serious charges and even where other lawyers might refuse to take the case. We have won numerous attempted murder defense cases in the past, and we win your case as well!