los angeles attempted murder defense lawyer

Attempted murder is a situation in which someone intends to kill someone else and takes a direct step to kill them, but the victim does not die.

This can include situations like:

  • Paying a hitman to kill someone, but the hitman fails
  • Poisoning someone, but the victim survives

Much like murder cases where the victim dies, attempted murder is divided into first degree and second-degree cases. First-degree attempted murder applies in situations where the defendant’s behavior was “premeditated and willful.” All other cases are second-degree attempted murder.

Attempted murder cases are serious. Sentences can range as high as life imprisonment in California State Prison, with additional penalties possible based on the facts of the case.

If you or someone you know has been accused of attempted murder, a call with a skilled criminal defense attorney can help ease some of the anxiousness of this time. Your attorney will thoughtfully review all of the facts of the case with you, inform you of what to expect and advise you of your options.

Based in the heart of Los Angeles, attempted murder defense attorney Robert M. Helfend has successfully defended thousands of clients since 1984. Call today – 800-834-6434.

California’s ‘Attempted Murder’ laws

In order to prove that someone committed a crime, a prosecutor has to prove to a jury that certain facts of the case were true. In the case of attempted murder, California Penal Codes 664/187(a) PC state that the prosecutor must show:

  1. The defendant took at least one direct step towards killing another person.
  2. The defendant intended to kill that person.

What is a ‘Direct Step’?

The prosecutor has to prove that the defendant had a plan to kill someone else and acted on it (the defendant took a “direct step”). In other words, the prosecutor has to show that the murder would have succeeded if it weren’t for an outside factor. Direct steps can include situations like:

  • Stabbing someone in the chest
  • Slipping poison into someone else’s food
  • Firing a gun at someone

Note that the examples above show someone directly acting on a plan. Acts of murder preparation — such as buying a knife or Googling “how to make poison” — aren’t considered direct steps.

Intent in attempted murder cases

How does a prosecutor show that a defendant intended to murder someone? It often depends on where the victim was injured.

If the victim sustained injuries on their lower body or extremities, this usually indicates that the defendant intended to maim or injure the victim. In this case, the defendant is not guilty of attempted murder.

However, if the victim sustained injuries on their upper body (near vital organs) or the nature of the injury was clearly life-threatening, there is evidence to show that the defendant intended to kill their victim.

Penalties for attempted murder in California

As we mentioned above, attempted murder cases are divided into first degree and second-degree attempted murder.

Attempted murder is always a felony. First-degree attempted murder charges apply in cases where the defendant acted willfully, deliberately and with premeditation. First-degree attempted murder is punishable by:

  • Life imprisonment in California State Prison
  • Fines of up to $10,000
  • Restitution to the victim
  • Loss of gun rights

Second-degree attempted murder charges apply in all other cases. It includes punishments of:

  • 5, 7 or 9 years imprisonment in California State Prison
  • Fines of up to $10,000
  • Restitution to the victim
  • Loss of gun rights

In addition to the above, attempted murder is a “Three Strikes” offense in California. This means that your second “strike” carries a double sentence, and a third would carry a mandatory life sentence.

As well, there are numerous “sentencing enhancements” that can be applied in attempted murder cases, depending on the facts of the case. This can include cases involving gangs, firearms or if the victim was a police officer.

Defenses against attempted murder charges

To convict someone of attempted murder, a prosecutor has to prove beyond a reasonable doubt that the defendant had a specific intent to kill. If the defendant simply meant to scare or injure the victim, there was no attempted murder committed.

This is where many attempted murder cases fall apart. The state has to show with irrefutable evidence that someone meant to kill another person and took a real, deliberate step to kill them. In many situations, a skilled defense attorney can dissect the evidence in the case and prove that it simply wasn’t true. This can result in your charges being reduced or dropped entirely.

This can be an anxious time, and a quick conversation with an attorney can provide some peace of mind for you or your loved one’s future. As a specialist in murder cases, earning recognition from esteemed groups like SuperLawyers and the National Trial Lawyers Top 100, Robert M. Helfend can help you navigate the options ahead of you.

Call us anytime, 24/7, for a free, no-risk discussion about your case – 800-834-6434