Attempted Murder

California Penal Code Section 664/187 – Attempted Murder

The crime of “attempted murder” is covered under California Penal Code Section 664/187. In general terms, if you attempt to kill someone, but they don’t die, then you will be facing a violent crime charge of attempted murder.  It’s important to note a crime is “attempted” when you had a specific intent to complete the act and you took a deliberate and direct step toward completing it. Attempted murder is serious offense carrying substantial time in a California state prison. For example, a conviction for an attempted first-degree murder charge could lead to a life sentence with the possibility of parole.

It’s a common myth that you have to actually physically touch another person to be convicted of attempted murder. Rather, it only requires you to act in a willful and deliberate manner to kill another person. In fact, attempted murder is commonly referred to as a failed attempt at first degree murder. However, a Penal Code 664/187 attempted murder charge requires more than just planning a murder. It requires at least one single substantial step towards completing the killing of someone else.

If you have been accused of attempted murder, you need to remain silent and not answer any questions from police detectives as you might incriminate yourself. Rather, you need to immediately consult with our highly experienced Los Angeles criminal defense lawyers at the Goldstein Law Group.  Let’s take a close examination at the legal definition, penalties, related offenses, and defenses below.

Legal Definition of Attempted Murder

California Penal Code Sections 664 and 187 provide a straightforward definition of attempted murder as follows:

“The attempted unlawful killing of another person, or a fetus, with malice aforethought.”

This definition requires further explanation as attempted murder law is complex. In order for the Los Angeles County prosecutor to convict you of attempted murder, they must be able to prove, two critical elements of the crime under CALCRIM 600 Jury Instructions:

  • You took a “direct step” toward killing someone
  • You specifically intended to kill that person

So, what exactly is a “direct step?” It’s more than just a plan to murder someone, rather it’s the next step in putting your plan into some direct action. In other words, a direct step can be just about any type of actual behavior that puts your plan into motion, such as firing a weapon at someone or stabbing them with a knife. Additionally, your direct step must have actually been an attempt to kill a specific person, not just to injure them.

An attempted murder crime is committed as soon as you take that deliberate step. Clearly, you don’t need to actually kill the person. It should be noted that if you take a deliberate step towards killing someone and then later decide not to follow through, you can still be convicted of Penal Code 664/187 attempted murder.

Legal Penalties for Attempted Murder

Under California Penal Code Section 664/187, the legal penalties for an attempted murder conviction typically carry about one half of the sentence you would have received if you had completed the crime. A conviction for attempted murder is always a felony offense and is broken down into 2 distinct degrees, including first-degree and second-degree attempted murder.

If you are convicted of first-degree attempted murder, meaning your attempt was deliberate and premeditated, you could face a sentence of life in a California state prison with the possibility of parole. If your attempt was against law enforcement or fireman engaged in their duties, it’s the same sentence, but you will have a mandatory minimum 15 years in prison.

If you are convicted of second-degree attempted murder, meaning your attempt wasn’t deliberate and premeditated, you could face a sentence of 5, 7, or 9 years in a California state prison. A conviction for either degree could result in other penalties such as a large fine, victim restitution, and loss of your gun rights. Additionally, attempted murder is considered a violent felony crime meaning a conviction will result in a strike on your record under California’s three strike law.

Finally, if your conviction for attempted murder involved a gang, you could face a criminal street gang sentencing enhancement under California Penal Code Section 186.22. Likewise, if you used a gun during the commission of attempted murder, you could also face a sentencing enhancement under California Penal Code Section 12022.53 known as “10-20-life use and gun and you’re done” law.

Related Offenses for Attempted Murder

California Penal Code Section 192(a) – Attempted Voluntary Manslaughter
California Penal Code Section 206 – Torture
California Penal Code Section 243(d) – Aggravated Battery
California Penal Code Section 245(a)(1) – Assault with a Deadly Weapon
California Penal Code Section 246 – Shooting at Inhabited Dwelling or Vehicle
California Penal Code Section 653f – Solicitation to Commit Murder
California Penal Code Section 26100 – Drive-By Shooting

Legal Defenses for Attempted Murder

Our Los Angeles criminal defense lawyers can use a wide range of strategies to defend you against charges of attempted murder under California Penal Code Section 664/187. The most common legal defenses include the following:

Lack of intent to kill – As stated above in the elements of the crime, the prosecutor has to prove you had a specific intent to kill another person. In some cases, we may be able to cast reasonable doubt on this critical element and might be able to show you were only motivated to injure them, not kill them.

No direct step – Again, making a plan to kill someone is not enough to be convicted. You must have taken an actual and real direct step to kill someone. Perhaps you voluntarily decided to abandon your plan before taking action.  Abandonment is a valid defense specific to attempted crimes. If you freely abandon your plan to kill somebody before taking a deliberate step, then you can’t be found guilty of attempted murder.

Self-defense – California’s self-defense laws permit you to use reasonable force to defend yourself or someone else if you believed you or the other person were going to suffer imminent harm. Perhaps our defense lawyers could show you only used force to protect yourself or another person and only used an amount of force necessary to defend against the danger, but had no intent to kill them.

False accusation – In some cases, perhaps we could argue you were falsely accused and wrongfully arrested. Perhaps you are the victim of mistaken identity. Perhaps you are a victim of an over-zealous police detective in a rush to judgment to make an arrest.

Contact the Goldstein Law Group for Help

If you are facing attempted murder charges under California Penal Code Section 664/187, you are facing serious life-altering legal penalties if convicted. It’s important to remain silent and not answer any question from law enforcement detectives. Rather, contact our experienced Los Angeles criminal defense lawyers who will need to closely examine the facts and circumstances in order to start developing a strategy to obtain the best possible outcome.

We have a track record of success and will aggressively fight your charges. We serve clients throughout Southern California from our Hollywood Office located at 1645 Vine St #809 Los Angeles, CA 90028. Contact our law firm at 323-461-2000 for a free case evaluation.