Attempted murder is an offense covered under PC 664/187 of the California law. Attempted murder is a severe crime that amounts to a substantial time in a California State Prison. If you try to kill another person, but he or she doesn't die, you could face charges for the violent offense of attempted murder. The term attempted means you had a specific intention to complete the act, and you took a direct and deliberate step to complete it. You only need to act deliberately and willfully to kill another person. Under California's PC 664/187 attempted murder charge demands more than mere murder planning. If you face the charges of attempted murder, The LA Criminal Defense Attorney Law Firm can help you develop a strong defense. We will be glad to guide you through creating the best defense against your case.

Attempted Murder Elements Under California Law

You may only face charges of attempted murder if the prosecutor can prove that you committed an act intended to kill someone but didn't lead to his or her death. The prosecutor also needs to prove malice aforethought. This fact means the prosecutor has to prove that you deliberately intended to kill another person. Attempted murder crime is complex and technical under California law. The prosecutor may use strong elements to prove that you are guilty of attempted murder. The elements the prosecutor could employ include:

You Intended to Kill Someone

The intention to kill another person is different from the intent to kill a specific individual. According to California law, if you intended to kill a fetus or another person, you could face attempted murder charges. The prosecutor may not need to identify a person to charge you even if your actions may have been directed to a specific target.

You may walk in an assembly hall full of people and fire your gun. This incident may leave some people injured, but nobody dies. You could still face the charges of attempted murder, even though you didn't target a specific person. It's important to note that under this statute, there need not be a particular individual.

The intention to kill another person is different from the kill zone theory. There is a specific target in the kill zone theory, but other people are injured. Therefore, it means that under this theory of attempted murder, you are responsible for any person you simultaneously intend to kill while trying to kill a specific individual. For you to face the charges under the rule of the kill zone, there's no requirement for you to have known that other people were in the location as long as you created the zone yourself. If you plant a bomb in a classroom, for instance, intending to kill the teacher but ten students get injured, you could face ten counts of attempted murder charges.

You Took a Deliberate Step Towards Killing someone

The court has to provide the evidence that at least you took one-step towards killing someone. Attempted murder needs premeditation, and it goes beyond mere arranging, preparations, and planning. Your preparations may be in the form of buying a weapon. More preparations could be when you hire someone to kill your target person. On the other hand, planning could be finding out where the target person will be at a specific time or where they live. In this case, a direct step is the next step of implementing the actual plan, and in such a way that the intended person's murder would have been executed, were it not for an external factor's interference. This element could be satisfied by your act if it goes beyond mere preparations.

You may intend to kill your neighbor. You then go ahead, writing down how you will implement the act and purchasing the machete you will use to slash your neighbor to death. Before you take concrete action to enforce your intention to kill, you are caught. Therefore, this means that you didn't go beyond mere preparations, and you are probably not guilty of attempted murder. However, you may go to the extent of breaking into your neighbor's home with a machete but change your mind and cancel the plan. You have taken a direct step towards the offense's commission in this scenario, even though you canceled the plan. You could still face the charges of attempted murder.

You Specifically Intended to Kill

When it comes to California’s attempted murder case, the prosecutors often find it difficult to prove this element. In this case, intent means that you meant to kill the targeted person. Your intent to severely injure or scare someone is not enough; you must implement your intention to kill. Your intent to kill someone can be circumstantially proven. The person's essential organs, for instance, are in the upper half of the body, if that is where you inflicted the injuries, this circumstantial evidence proves your intent to kill. On the other hand, if you inflict injuries on the lower half of the body, it indicates that your aim was only to inflict injuries instead of killing. The prosecutor may find it challenging to prove your intent to kill if injuries are absent.

Attempted Murder Penalties

California's PC 664 clearly outlines the penalties for attempted murder. Under this statute, it's a felony to be convicted of attempted murder. Attempted murder is categorized as first and second-degree attempted murder. The penalties differ from one type to another, but you may generally face half of the sentence that the substantive offense would carry.

First-degree Attempted Murder

If the attempted murder was willful, deliberate, and premeditated, you could face first-degree attempted murder charges. If you are convicted of first-degree attempted murder, you could face the following penalties:

  • Victim restitution

  • Withdrawal of the right to own or acquire firearms

  • Strike on your criminal record according to California's three-strikes law

  • Strike on your criminal record according to California's three-strikes law

  • A fine of up to $10,000

  • A life sentence in the California state prison with the possibility of parole

Suppose the first-degree attempted murder victim is a firefighter, peace officer, police officer, or any other protected individual on their duties. In that case, you could face the same sentence with a mandatory 15-year prison sentence minimum.

Second-degree Attempted Murder

Second-degree attempted murder is not willful, deliberate, and premeditated. If you are convicted of second-degree attempted murder, you could face the following penalties:

  • A strike following California's three-strike

  • Victim restitution

  • A maximum fine of $10,000

  • The loss of the right to possess, acquire or own a firearm

  • A sentence of five, seven, or nine years in California’s state prison

Additional Penalties

The court may impose an enhanced sentence at the time of first or second-degree sentencing. This enhanced penalty could be an additional and consecutive sentence if your underlying charge has unique circumstances.

Use of a Gun

After you commit an attempted murder according to PC 12022.53, you could face an additional sentence if you used a gun. The penalties may include:

  • Additional 25 years to life in prison if you fired a gun and caused death or significant body injuries

  • Additional 20 years in prison if you fired a gun

  • Other ten years in prison if you used a gun but didn't fire it

Association with Street Gang criminals

According to PC 186.22, you may face an additional sentence if you are charged with a felony crime that you committed for the benefit of or in association with street gang criminals. You could have either assisted the gang's criminal behaviors or intended to promote their illegal actions. If the court can provide enough evidence that your offense was related to a gang and you are charged with attempted murder, you could face an enhanced sentence of 15-year to life in state prison.

Three Strikes Enhancement

Under California law, violating PC 215 qualifies as a violent felony offense. Thus, on top of the punishment for attempted murder, you might also earn a strike on your record. This additional punishment is following California's three-strike law. After earning a criminal strike on your record, you would have to complete at least 85% of your criminal sentencing before you qualify for parole.

If you commit an additional offense, you'll become a second striker. If you're a second striker, you'll face double the punishment put in place by the law. If you commit an additional felony and have two previous strikes on your record, you will be a third striker. According to the law, third strikers have to serve a minimum of 25 years in a California state prison.

Immigration Consequences

Under California law, attempted murder is an aggravated felony. Suppose you are convicted of attempted murder, and you are a United States non-citizen. In that case, the Department of Homeland Security may deport you regardless of how well-established your life is or how long you have lived in the United States.

Other Offenses Charged along with Attempted Murder

There are several different offenses related to PC 664/187 attempted murder law violations. They include:

Shooting at an Occupied Vehicle

Shooting at an occupied vehicle PC 246 means an intention to kill the people in the vehicle. The court may charge you under PC 246 with an enhanced offense of attempted murder.

Drive-by Shooting

Drive-by shooting PC 26100 is an attempted murder if no death occurs. The logic is similar to shooting at an occupied vehicle PC 246. If you shoot, a gun towards other people means you intend to kill at least one person.

Aggravated Battery PC 243

Under California's PC 243, aggravated battery is committed by striking or touching someone in an offensive or harmful manner and causing severe bodily injury. If you violate PC 243, it's a wobbler, and you could be charged with a felony or misdemeanor depending on the extent of the injuries and the circumstances of your case. If you are charged with a misdemeanor, you could face a fine of $1,000 or a one-year sentence in county jail. If you are accused of a felony, you could face a fine of $10,000, or two, three, or four years in county jail.


If you inflict great harm to the body, another person to cause extreme or cruel pain is torture under PC 206. You could face a fine between an intent to kill and intent to cause excessive or lethal pain to another person. The court could charge you if your behavior amounts to torture with attempted murder.

Assault with a Deadly Weapon

Under California's PC 245, a deadly weapon is any instrument, weapon, or object used in a manner that can cause death or significant bodily injury. Some of the fatal weapons may include blunt objects, clubs, chemicals, bottles, knives, baseball bats, and vehicle parts. Assault with a deadly weapon happens when you assault someone using force or a deadly weapon that is likely to inflict a significant bodily injury. For instance, you and your friend may engage in a heated argument in a bar. You then fight up to the parking lot where you retrieve a baseball bat from your vehicle and use it as a weapon against them. Physical contact against someone using your feet or hands is not enough to support PC 245. It can only support if force is applied to cause significant bodily injury.

Under PC 245, assault with a deadly weapon is a wobbler. The court may charge you as a felony or a misdemeanor, depending on your case's criminal history and circumstances. If you are charged with a misdemeanor, you could face misdemeanor summary probation, a fine of $1,000, or a jail sentence of one year in county jail. If you are charged with a felony, you could face formal felony probation, a fine of $10,000, or two, three, or four years in a California state prison.

Attempted Voluntary Manslaughter

If you try to kill another person upon a sudden quarrel or in the heat of passion, this is attempted voluntary manslaughter under PC 192(a). Your conviction for attempted murder can be reduced to attempted voluntary manslaughter if:

  • You had an honest but unreasonable belief that the attempt was in self-defense

  • You tried the murder in the heat of passion

You could face a five-and-a-half-year prison sentence if you are charged under PC 192(a)

Domestic Violence Crimes

California domestic violence statute deals with the cases of attempted murder. Attempted murder happens if one of the intimate partners tries to kill the other.

Attempted Helping a Suicide

Even if a person does not die, helping another person commit suicide is a crime under PC 401. However, the difference between helping suicide and attempted murder isn’t always clear. If your friend, who wants to commit suicide, requests you to push him or her off a building, this is an attempted murder if he or she does not die. An attempt to help another person to commit suicide amounts to fewer felony penalties than attempted murder.

Soliciting Another Person to Commit an Offense

Soliciting another person to break the law is an offense under PC 653(f). It’s a felony under this statute, and you may face a sentence of up to nine years in prison.

Defenses to Attempted Murder

Under California’s PC 664 and 187, there are legal defenses you can use to fight your attempted murder charges. The defenses include:

You Acted in Self-defense

You have the right under California law to use reasonable force to protect another person or yourself if you reasonably believe that bodily harm is imminent. In this situation, the force you receive should be equal to the force you use. Under California law, you are allowed to apply deadly force to counter or resist deadly force even if you don't take the first retreat. Even if you act like a criminal, the California law on self-defense allows you to defend yourself against another person trying to kill you.

False Accusation or Wrongful Arrest

There are common reasons for false accusation or wrongful arrest for attempted murder. They include flawed eyewitness identification, mistaken identity, and ties to a gang. You could be mistaken with a suspect because you drive a similar car owned by the actual suspect or have similar physical descriptions. Another situation that could make you be accused of attempted murder is being in the wrong place at the wrong time. However, with a competent attorney's help, you can employ the best approach to interview the witnesses and prove your innocence. The witnesses' truth could bring false allegations to light, and you may be acquitted of the charges.

No Direct Step Was Taken in an Attempt to Kill

For you to face the charges of attempted murder, California law requires more than intent. The court must provide the evidence that you took a direct step towards implementing your intent. Buying the weapons, wanting to kill someone, and arranging how you could dispose of the deceased after completing the task is not a direct step. If you are arrested before fulfilling your mission, you are not guilty of attempted murder. You are also not guilty according to this law if you voluntarily decide to abandon the plan. You are only guilty of attempted murder if you take a direct step but then change your mind later. In this situation, your attorney may negotiate with the court to have your conviction reduced. Under California law, several actions can qualify as a direct step. They include:

  • Convincing your target person to come to a specific place that will make it possible for him or her to be murdered

  • Collecting all the materials to be used for murder such as parts of a bomb

  • Paying another person to commit the murder or using an unknowing person like planting a bomb in them

  • Tracking the alleged person, following the alleged person, or hiding out in waiting for an opportunity to carry out a murder

  • Breaking into the alleged person’s property, home, or any place he or she is thought to be

You didn’t have Specific Intention to Kill

If the prosecutor accuses you of attempted murder, he or she must prove that you deliberately had an intention to kill another person. If you didn't have a specific intention to kill the alleged person, your attorney could prove your innocence for the crime. He or she can argue that you only intended to injure or scare the alleged person. Your charges could be reduced to assault with a deadly weapon, simple assault, or mayhem with this argument. You could be acquitted of attempted murder charges if your attorney can prove your alternative motive to commit a lesser offense than murder.

Insufficient Evidence

If the prosecutor does not have sufficient evidence against you, he or she may not accuse you of attempted murder. In some instances, victims of attempted murder lose interest in prosecution and decide to drop the charges. However, simply because the victim has dropped attempted murder charges does not mean that you will not face prosecution. The prosecutor may order the victim to court, and if the victim fails to honor the order, he or she may face an arrest. However, a drop in charges by a victim of attempted murder might indicate a lack of enough evidence against you. Your attorney can take advantage of this situation to challenge the prosecution's charges. If the prosecutor doesn't have convincing evidence against you, they might be willing to reduce your charges or drop the charges.

Find an LA Defense Attorney Near Me

If you face attempted murder charges, you need to speak to a competent criminal defense attorney as soon as possible. In as much as the penalties for attempted murder are life-changing and severe, they can be challenged. Talking to an experienced attorney will help him or her to evaluate the available evidence and create a better defense against your charges. At The LA Criminal Defense Law Firm, we have competent attorneys who can negotiate for reduction or dismissal of the charges against you. Contact us at 310-935-1675 and speak to one of our attorneys.