The concept of attempted murder seems pretty simple, but in practice, proving the charged in a California court room can be fairly complex and come down to the tiniest details. If you have been accused of attempted murder in San Diego, a skilled criminal defense lawyer like Peter M. Liss can help.
What is Attempted Murder in California?
Attempted murder charges are filed when the victim is still alive after an attempt is made at their life. It is important to note that thinking or talking about killing someone is not the same as attempted murder. Additionally, if someone is nearly killed, the person accused of the crime must have intended to kill.
For example, if John hates Tom and hits Tom with his car while traveling at 15 miles per hour, there may be enough evidence to show that John intentionally harmed Tom, but not that he attempted to murder him, even if John previously stated that he wished Tom was dead. Many people may wish ill on their enemies, but few are willing to take efforts to actually murder those they dislike. For this reason, attempted murder charges can be difficult for the prosecution to prove in the state of California.
Proving an Attempted Murder Charge in California
In order for the prosecution to prove attempted murder occurred under California Penal Code section 664/187(a) (pc), they must be able to show the defendant specifically intended to kill. California state law requires the prosecutors must not only show that an attempt was made to harm someone, but that there was a specific intent to kill another person and a direct step taken towards that goal. In a case where someone was shot at once and hit in the leg, for example, it would be very hard for the prosecution to prove that the defendant was attempting to kill the person when the wound was so far away from the head and vital organs -unless the defendant fired the gun from a long distance.
Attempted Murder Penalties
The penalties for attempted murder will vary based on what type of murder charge would be filed if the attempt were successful. First-degree murder charges are filed when the crime had malice aforethought, meaning the act was deliberate and premeditated Alternatively, if the crime involved torture, poison, explosives, a weapon of mass destruction, armor-penetrating ammunition, or the murderer was lying in wait, first-degree murder may be charged. Second-degree murder charges are used in cases that do not meet the requirements for a first-degree level crime.
For first-degree attempted murder, the maximum penalty is life imprisonment with the possibility of parole. If the victim was a firefighter or police officer, anyone convicted of first-degree attempted murder must serve a minimum sentence of 15 years to be eligible for parole. In second-degree attempted murder cases, the maximum sentence is nine-years in state prison.
Both degrees of attempted murder are considered serious violent crimes that will subject you to a strike on your record under the state’s three strikes law.
The Right Criminal Defense Makes a Big Difference
Of course, one of the most important aspects things you can do if you have been charged with attempted murder is to invoke your right to silence. If you tell police you were trying to kill someone and wished you succeeded, it will be a lot harder for your attorney to argue that you did not actually intend to kill that person.
That being said, there are other ways your defense lawyer may help you fight these charges as well, which could include arguing that you were acting in self defense or that there is simply not enough evidence to show you committed the crime. In other cases, your best option will be pleading the charges down to a similar, but lesser offense, such as voluntary manslaughter, involuntary manslaughter, assault with a deadly weapon or aggravated battery.
Whatever the specific circumstances of your attempted murder case, criminal defense attorney Peter M. Liss can help. Please call his office at (760) 643-4050 to schedule a free consultation.