California PEN 664 and PEN 187(a) define attempted murder as the desire to kill coupled with a direct though ineffective step towards killing someone. The offense is a violent felony, and when convicted, you risk up to life imprisonment. Therefore, you must act fast and find a competent criminal lawyer whenever you face these charges or learn of an impending arrest for the same in Santa Ana, CA. We at Darwish Law will build a compact defense and prevent a conviction. Additionally, our attorneys will work tirelessly to help you understand your charges, the penalties, and the possible defenses.
Legal Definition of Attempted Murder
California statutes subdivide murder into two categories under PEN 664 and PEN 187(a). You could face charges for attempted first-degree attempted homicide or murder under PC 187(a) if your actions were deliberate and premeditated. On the other hand, second-degree attempted homicide in PC 664 includes all activities but premeditation and willfulness.
Attempted murder or homicide is not a muse, wish, or contemplation to end the life of another human being but an actual trial to kill involving criminal intent or purpose. The prosecuting attorney only needs to prove two elements to find you guilty of the offense. These elements are:
- You made a direct but unsuccessful or ineffective step to kill a human being
- You had the intent or desire to kill the individual
It is worth noting that a person or human being, in this case, includes even a fetus. Proving these two elements is challenging for the prosecution, but our attorneys at Darwish Law have discussed them further in the following section.
Attempted Murder Elements
You will be convicted of attempted murder if the prosecuting team can prove beyond reasonable certainty that you engaged in a violent or criminal act with the desire to end the life of another party, although you were unsuccessful. Also, the prosecutor must demonstrate malice aforethought, meaning showing the court you intended to cause death. The prosecutor will not take it easy on you when proving these elements. Therefore, you need a Darwish Law attorney on your corner during prosecution.
You Intended to Cause Death or Kill
Proving intent to kill is the most challenging task for the prosecutor in these cases. Intent refers to the desire, fixation, or purpose to end the life of another individual. It goes beyond a desire to cause severe injuries because if your intentions at the time of the act were to cause harm, you would not face charges for trying to end life.
Typically, the prosecuting lawyer will argue that your effort to attack the victim on the upper body section where most crucial body organs are positioned indicates your fixation or desire to kill. If you shot your victim in the lower section, it is a sign you purposed to injure the victim and not end their life. Nonetheless, even when you strike a person in the lower area and desire to kill, the prosecuting team will struggle to demonstrate intent. When the victim has no visible bodily injuries, the prosecutor must rely on circumstantial evidence to meet the evidentiary standard when the victim has no visible physical injuries.
It is worth noting that your intent or desire to kill must have been directed to a specific person for the attempted homicide charge to hold in court. Nonetheless, there are exemptions to this rule. For instance, Peter walks into a classroom and sprays bullets on the students. Luckily, nobody dies, but many students sustain serious injuries. Peter was not concerned about the students who the bullets would hit, but he will still face charges of attempted murder. This is different from the kill zone form of attempted murder, where you have a target but open fire in public without being concerned by other individuals who your actions will injure.
With specific intent or purpose to kill a person, you are convicted for the individuals you tried to kill. Still, with the kill zone kind of attempted homicide, you will be sentenced for every individual injured in the incident.
You Took a Deliberate Direct, and Substantial Step to Kill
Lastly, the prosecutor must demonstrate that you took a direct step to end another person's life. Your direct actions must be more than mere planning. The prosecutor must show you put your plan in motion, and it is only that external factors interfered; you could have killed your target. Some direct actions include stabbing the victim in the chest, paying someone to kill your target, or firing a gun toward your target. Planning involves activities like finding out where your mark lives or where you can find them at a specific time, while preparations involve buying a murder weapon like a gun or knife, loading a firearm, or finding an assassin only.
You can be convicted without necessarily touching the victim. Putting a plan in motion alone, like hiring a person for the job, will amount to attempted murder.
Attempted Murder Sentence
Attempted homicide is a felony, and the sentence is usually half that of a completed or successful murder under PC 187. The penalties for trying to kill someone vary based on the degree of the offense. The sentence includes life incarceration with possible parole for 1st-degree attempted murder involving willful and deliberate action. When the victim of your actions is an on-duty peace officer, firefighter, or other protected parties, you will face a mandatory minimum sentence of fifteen years.
If you tried to kill someone without any prior desire, deliberation, or premeditation, you would face 2nd degree of attempted homicide. A conviction for the offense attracts 60, 84, or 108 months in prison.
You will face additional penalties for attempted murder under PC 664 and PC 187(a). The court will require you to pay a victim restitution fee and a court fine of no more than ten thousand dollars. Additionally, you will be stripped of your gun ownership rights and add a strike on your criminal history. Attempted homicide is a violent crime, meaning if you already have a strike on your record, a subsequent one will double your sentence. A third strike will result in at least twenty-five years of prison incarceration.
Under PEN 186.22, you will face an additional sentence when attempted murder occurs in association with or further a criminal street gang activity; you will face an additional penalty. The sentence runs from fifteen years to life imprisonment concurrently with your attempted murder charge.
If you use a gun during an attempted murder, you will face sentence enhancement under PEN 12022.53. For easy use of a firearm during the commission of a crime, you will face an additional and subsequent 120 months in prison. When the court demonstrates that you fired a gun, you will face a 20 years sentence enhancement. If it turns out you killed someone or inflicted great bodily harm using the firearm, you will face an extra and concurrent twenty years to life imprisonment.
Finally, the offense is an aggravated felony subject to deportation upon conviction. Therefore, if you are an alien, you should talk to a criminal defense attorney early enough because you will be deported if you obtain a guilty verdict. The attorney you hire for the case must be familiar with immigration laws and procedures. Even if you cannot prevent a conviction, they can take the necessary measures to protect you from deportation.
Winning Your Attempted Murder Case
Winning an attempted homicide case is not a simple task. Your criminal attorney must understand the statutes of this crime and their relationship with your case’s facts. A competent attorney can win the case by filing a legal motion to dismiss or exclude evidence in a pre-trial. When the judge grants a motion to dismiss, the charges will be dropped, and you will be free to go home. If your attorneys come across crucial evidence that can be used against you by the prosecutor, the motion to exclude evidence comes into play. Once granted, the prosecutor will be left with a weak case increasing your chances of a favorable outcome.
Alternatively, the attorney could use the prosecutor’s discovery against them. The prosecuting team has the burden to prove the case’s elements beyond a reasonable doubt. Your attorney will obtain the prosecutor's evidence against you during the discovery stage. After a thorough evaluation, the attorney will poke holes in the evidence to establish how it was obtained and whether the legal channels were followed. If the investigating officers used shortcuts to obtain the proof, it would be admissible in court, leaving the prosecutor with a weak attempted murder case.
The other way you can win your case is by devising sold legal defense strategies. Being a defendant in these criminal cases, you do not need to prove you are innocent. You are just required to demonstrate you are not guilty. There are several defense strategies your legal team can apply to convince the jury you are not guilty. These legal defenses are:
You were Acting in Self-Defense
Under California statutes, you can use reasonable force to repel a threat. Therefore, if you had a reasonable belief that you or another person were about to be killed by the alleged victim at the time of the crime, you will not be guilty if you attempted to kill the assailant in an attempt to stand your ground. You do not owe the victim a duty to retreat first, and therefore, your actions are justified under the law. However, you need evidence to convince the jury you were acting in self-defense. The elements you must prove are:
- You reasonably believed that you or someone else was in immediate or likely danger or injury or death
- You were convinced that there was a need to use force to repel the threat
- You used reasonable force to repel the threat
However, if you are the person that provoked the victim to attack you or someone else, you cannot use self-defense to contest the charges.
You Had No Specific Desire to Kill
If you can recall, one crucial element the prosecutor needs to obtain a guilty verdict in the case is desire or intent. Without demonstrating a specific purpose, a conviction is not possible. When the defense strategy is effective, the charge will be reduced to a lesser offense like mayhem, assault, or assault with a deadly weapon depending on the case’s facts. Having the intent to injure or maim is not enough to sustain an attempted murder charge. A profound criminal lawyer will prove to the court other motives that could have triggered your actions other than homicide.
You Did Not Take Any Direct Step Towards Killing Your Target
Should the prosecuting lawyer prove that you had an elaborate plan to kill, purchased the necessary weapons, wrote down and discussed the murder plan and how to dispose of the body, but you did not take even a single step to put your plans in motion, you are not guilty of attempted murder. Also, when you engage in all the necessary preparations but at the last minute abandon your plan, you are not guilty.
It is only attempted murder if you cross the direct and significant step line. Also, abandoning the plan voluntarily or being arrested before accomplishing your goal does not meet the attempted murder definition provided in the law. Nevertheless, if you had made an ineffective direct step towards achieving the murder but later abandoned the plan, you will still be guilty of attempted murder. With a competent attorney, you can convince the prosecutor to lower the charges because of voluntarily abandoning your plan during plea bargaining. Freely dropping your plans to execute someone is a sign of remorse, and with proper negotiation, the attempted murder charge can be reduced to a lesser offense.
Cases of misidentification are common in attempted murder cases, especially where you resemble the assailant, meet the witness description of the vehicle the assailant was driving, or were in the wrong place at the wrong time. If the victim wrongfully identifies you or you were found with items linked to the attempted murder, you can quickly be convicted if you do not have an attorney on your side. Most evidence points against you, and you need someone to show the jury that you are a victim of misidentification.
You Committed the Crime Due to Insanity
Your defense attorney can argue that you lacked an understanding of your action’s nature when committing the crime. When you plead guilty to the alleged offense, you will obtain a sanity hearing if you convince the jury that you were not in the right state of mind. You will undergo a mental evaluation test by a recognized psychiatrist to establish your mental state when the crime occurred.
The charges against you will be dropped if the tests show you had a mental illness when the offense occurred. If the insanity were due to drug addiction or substance abuse, the defense theory would not apply.
After an attempted murder arrest, some individuals confess or admit to committing the crime. Unfortunately, police officers can coerce you to confess to having tried to kill someone due to the need to close more cases or other selfish motives.
Some of the techniques used by authorities to obtain confessions are:
- Denial of basic needs while in custody
- Torture to force you to admit having committed the alleged crime
- Threat to harm you or your immediate family
- Incessant interrogation even after choosing to remain silent until your attorney is present
- A promise for a favorable sentence if you confess to the attempted murder allegations
When any of the above scenarios led to your charges, your attorney could find evidence to show the officers coerced you to confess. You had no other option because you wanted to protect your loved ones or obtain a lenient sentence. The evidence is obtained by determining the means adopted by the interrogating officers to obtain your confession.
Attempted Murder Parole
If you are convicted of attempted homicide, you are qualified for a parole program. The program allows your prison sentence to be replaced by parole after completing a predetermined sentence or serving a predetermined part of an undetermined sentence.
You are eligible for parole if:
- You are not a threat to the community’s safety
- You have portrayed good conduct for the period you have been behind bars
- The severity of the baseline offense
- Your preparedness to re-enter the society
- Your approach toward parole
- Parole recommendations made by the sentencing judge
- Your desire or motivation during the crime
When you are an eligible candidate for the program, your application will go through. You will be assigned a parole officer who supervises your conduct and helps with your re-entry into society.
Find an Experienced Violent Crimes Attorney Near Me
The worst mistake you can make is representing yourself in court when charged with attempted murder. The consequences of a conviction for a violent crime are devastating and include serving a life sentence. Therefore, do not leave anything to chance. Hire a criminal attorney to help you win the case or obtain a charge reduction. At Darwish Law, we will not only defend you against the counts but educate you on all aspects of the case. If you need someone for your case in Santa Ana, CA, do not hesitate to contact us at 714-887-4810 for a free consultation.