Elements of Attempted Murder in California
To be convicted of attempted murder in California, the prosecutor must be able to prove beyond reasonable doubt that there was
- The intent
This is the element that complicates attempted murder cases. Intent to commit murder can be classified into two parts which include:
The intent to murder starts in the mind with a plan put in place. This means that your intentions are to take the direct action. This, for instance, could be something like purchasing pieces for a home-made bomb and then researching on how to make it. This means that you are planning to take the action at a particular point in time.
The accused must intend to kill the targeted individual to be convicted of murder. The prosecutor must prove that the attempt was not meant to disfigure or frighten the victim but to commit murder. For instance, if the injuries are to the upper half of the body, it is considered as intent to kill because that’s the area with the most vital body organs. Your criminal defense lawyer can argue that you didn’t intend to kill but only to cause injury if there are severe injuries on the lower half of the body.
A direct step taken towards killing the other person
Murder takes planning, preparation and arrangements before the actual action takes place. In this case, the direct step refers to final the action of making the attempt to kill which would have been complete were it not for an interruption by an outside factor. The actions that are considered to be a direct step vary from one case to another. There is a wide range of actions that can qualify as direct step and these include:
- Tracking the victim down, following the victim or hiding out in waiting hoping for an opportunity to commit the crime
- Breaking in into a home, property, or any place the victim is thought to be
- Convincing the victim to come to a specific place that will make it possible for the victim to be murdered
- Paying someone else to commit the murder or even using an unknowing person such as planting a bomb in them
- Collecting all the materials to be used for murder such as purchasing a gun, or parts of a bomb
Categories of Attempted Murder
California law categorizes attempted murder into two categories. The punishments and penalties vary from one type to another. According to California Penal Code 664, punishments for attempted include:
First Degree Attempted Murder
In this case, the attempted murder has to be premeditated, deliberate and willful. If convicted, the penalties include:
- Life imprisonment with possibility of parole
- A fine of up to $10,000
- Victim restitution
- Withdrawal of the right to acquire or own firearms
- A “strike” in accordance with California’s Three Strikes Law
Second Degree Attempted Murder
This involves an attempted murder that was neither premeditated nor willful. If convicted, the penalties you face are:
- Victim Restitution
- Imprisonment for five, seven or nine years in state prison.
- Denial of the right to acquire or own firearms.
- A “strike” in accordance to California’s Three Strikes Law
If the prosecutor proves that you committed attempted murder with the aim to aid a gang related activity, then on top of your prior charges as stated above; you receive additional fifteen years to life imprisonment.
In the event that you used a gun while committing the crime, then you will face additional penalties. The penalties according to California Penal Code 12022.53 are:
- If you used a gun- 10 years.
- If you fired a gun- 20 years
- If you caused great bodily harm to the victim- 25 years
Legal Defenses of Attempted Murder
- i) No specific Intent to Kill
As stated earlier, attempted murder is based on the absolute intention to kill. If one is able to prove beyond reasonable doubt that the intention of the attack was not to murder then acquittal of the murder charges is possible. Other reasons could be scaring or maiming the victim
- ii) No direct step was taken
If the defendant did not take a direct step towards committing the crime despite having meditated and even prepared for it then the charges leveled against him are dropped.
iii) False Accusation
This is a common phenomenon where one can be mistaken for someone else due to physical characteristics or simply by being at the wrong place at the wrong time.
- iv) Self-defense
If the defendant can prove beyond reasonable doubt that the alleged victim posed an imminent threat to their safety or wellbeing, they are allowed under California law to defend themselves. California self-defense laws permit its residents to counter their attackers with the necessary force to protect themselves.
- v) Act of Nature
If for instance an earthquake occurs and a building collapses while someone is in it. The owner of the building may be charged with attempted murder but the incident was no fault of theirs. The defendant can be acquitted of these charges if there is proof that the accident was caused by an act of nature.
Reduce Attempted Murder to Attempted Manslaughter
California Penal Code Section 192 describes manslaughter as the unlawful killing of a human being without malice. This means that the defendant’s actions were devoid of any form of evil or malice. If an attorney is able plea for negotiations to reduce the charges of the defendant from attempted murder to attempted manslaughter then it lifts a lot of weight off the penalties that the defendant was to face. Attempted manslaughter is considered ‘better’ than attempted murder because it does not involve any negligence or any plans or premeditation to hurt someone. Attempted manslaughter is usually provoked by the alleged victim due to one reason or another.
Attempted manslaughter, in most cases, happens in the heat of the moment. Could be a heated argument or an act that provokes the other party that they are willing to hurt the other party but they are stopped before committing the crime. It could be that the police arrive at the scene of other people come and stop you. The intent to commit the crime was there but the action is not completed.
If you get a competent attorney ho manages to reduce these charges, then you can use the following defenses to reduce the charges:
If it can be proven that the alleged victim out rightly provoked the defendant in such that any other sane and normal person would have reacted in the exact same way. The attorney must be able to convince the prosecutor that the provocation was too intense that it justifies your action at the time. The provocations could be a heat of passion or a sudden intense quarrel.
If proven, this can go a long way in reducing the criminal liability of the defendant. Under this defense, the lawyer must be able to convince the jury that:
- With all honesty, the defendant felt that he or she had to retaliate with deadly force in order to defend himself which was unreasonable. The lawyer has to convince the prosecutor that it was a matter of imperfect judgment of the situation.
- The defendant believed that they faced the imminent danger that could lead to their bodily harm or even death which was unreasonable (poor judgment).
Actions to Take When Accused of Attempted Murder
As defined earlier, attempted murder is a case where there was an intention of murder but the victim survive. This makes it a very serious accusation. You should realize the gravity of the accusation you are dealing with and the harm it would cause you if proven guilty.
The first thing you should do is hire a reputable and experienced attorney- an attorney who has a comprehensive knowledge of California law and has won many such cases before.
Be completely honest with your attorney no matter how guilty the information makes you look. Remember, the attorney is on your side and wants the best outcome out of all these. To get these charges against you dismissed, the lawyer needs to mount a whole load of information and evidence to build up a case.
In the event that you are out rightly guilty and all evidence points against you, Long Beach criminal attorneys will still negotiate a favorable bail for you. If wrongfully accused, then justice will be sought by all means necessary.
Compensating the Wrongly Accused
Attempted murder is just as destroying someone’s record as murder. It is therefore very unfortunate and wrong to have your name associated with this heinous crime while you are in fact innocent. Having gone through the tormenting experience and being proven innocent, there are some damages that it does to you as a person which deserve compensation. This rarely occurs but nothing is impossible if you have the zealous Long Beach criminal attorneys on your side.
The defendant is entitled to the following:
- Reasonable monetary compensation; this will depend largely on the time spent during the trial. Some cases tend to drag for a long time but in the end, the charges against them are dismissed. In the event that he or she was locked up before he could be proven innocent then the compensation is set upon each year or month served.
- Monetary support for basic needs like transportation spent during the trial.
- In case the defendant lost their job due to this accusation, then they should pay up and if possible help them secure a job.
- Reimbursement for the legal costs incurred while fighting the case.
If the defendant was convicted, then there should be a release of an official statement that acknowledges the wrongful conviction. It is assumed that no system is perfect and if the government publicly recognizes that it inflicted harm on a wrongfully convicted person, it will take ownership of its errors and fosters the healing process of that individual.
Winning your case
If you or your loved one is facing attempted murder charges, speak to a skilled criminal defense attorney at The Law Offices of Long Beach Criminal Defense as soon as possible. In as much as the punishments for attempted murder are severe and life-changing, they are also avoidable. Talking to us immediately will help in the evaluation of evidence and better preparation when it comes to defense. This will give you a better opportunity to overcome the serious accusations. Our experienced attorneys may be able to negotiate for dismissal or reduction of the charges against you. Our goal is to get you a not-guilty verdict in the event that your case goes to trial by employing every available strategy. We serve in the Long Beach area and are available 24 hours a day, 7 days a week. Contact us today at (562) 308-7807 for a free consultation and free case review.