Under California Penal Code 664, attempted murder is an intention to kill another person and a direct but unsuccessful step towards killing the individual. Even though no one loses their lives in the commission of this crime, attempted murder is a severe crime. A conviction under PC 664 will go through if the prosecution can prove that you were committed to the act of killing the alleged victim and you took a direct step that failed. Attempted murder is a violent felony whose conviction attracts a lengthy prison sentence and hefty fines.

In addition to the legal penalties, having a violent felony conviction lingering in your criminal will affect your ability to obtain a job and keep your professional license and can also ruin your relationships. Therefore, if you or a loved one faces criminal charges for attempted murder, it is you must contact a knowledgeable attorney. At California Criminal Lawyer Group, we offer top-notch legal guidance for all our clients facing attempted murder charges in Anaheim, CA.

Overview of Attempted Murder Laws in California

Attempted murder is the incomplete and unsuccessful intent and direct step to kill someone else. Unlike a murder charge, the criminal act of attempted murder does not result in death. However, the crime will still attract serious penalties if you are guilty and convicted. Attempted murder, commonly known as an attempted homicide, differs significantly from the actual killing. Attempted homicide occurs when you plan to kill someone and make plans or steps towards doing so. Additionally, acting disregarding human life could attract charges under this statute.

Like homicide, attempted murder is categorized in different degrees. A first-degree attempted homicide requires significant proof that the murder was premeditated. Premeditation involves the conscious and deliberate decision to commit murder.

Second-degree attempted murder is less serious, and proof of premeditation is unnecessary. If you try to kill someone in the heat of passion, you risk facing charges for second-degree attempted murder.

In California, attempted murder is charged under PC 664 and has the following elements:

1.  You Had Specific Intents to Kill

Having a specific intent means that meant to kill the alleged target. The intent to kill is a challenging element for the prosecution to prove. An intent to cause injuries or scare someone is not enough to find you guilty under this statute. If you cause substantial injury to a victim, the prosecution can use physical and circumstantial evidence to prove your intent. However, the criminal intent is not always obvious in the absence of injury.

2.  You Intended to kill a “Person.”

The intent to kill a person is not the same as an intent to kill a person. Although your actions could have been directed at a particular person, the court will not require the prosecution to identify the specific target.

3.  You Took a Deliberate Step Towards Killing Another Person

Another key element that the prosecution must prove to establish your guilt for attempted murder is that you took a direct step towards killing the person. An intention to kill someone is not enough to show your liability under PC 664. You must have taken a tangible step towards accomplishing the goal.

A direct step to kill someone is an act that is more than planning the murder. Therefore, the prosecution will not use actions like purchasing a firearm or learning of the person’s location as deliberate attempts to commit the crime. However, if you shot a firearm in the direction of the alleged victim or solicit someone to carry out the killing, you will be found guilty of attempted murder.

The kill Zone Theory

California accepts the ‘kill zone” theory when prosecuting defendants for attempted murder. This theory involves defendants who try to kill a specific person but attempt to carry out the crime in a place where others are in danger of harm. The prosecution can use the kill zone theory if you shoot a gun in a large crowd or plant an explosive device in a place the targeted victim frequents.

Sentencing and Penalties for Penal Code 664 Charges

The penalties you face following a conviction for attempted murder vary depending on the crime you are charged with. A conviction for first-degree attempted murder is a felony that attracts the following penalties:

  • A life sentence with a possibility of parole
  • Victim Restitution
  • Fines that do not exceed $10,000
  • A strike under California three strikes law on your record
  • A firearm ban for a lifetime
  • Victim restitution

If the victim of your crime is a peace officer, police officer, firefighter, or a protected person, you must serve a mandatory sentence of fifteen years. If the court finds you guilty of attempted second-degree homicide, you risk facing these punishments:

  • A state prison sentence ranging from five to nine years
  • A $10,000 fine
  • Loss of your right to own, purchase or possess a firearm
  • A strike on your criminal record
  • Victim restitution

Sentence Enhancements for Attempted Homicide in California

A sentence enhancement is a specific factor in your case that causes the court to impose a harsher penalty following a conviction. The following are common penalty enhancements for PC 664:

Gang Enhancement

California PC 186.22 seeks to punish individuals who commit crimes to aid street gang activities. The court will prosecute you under this statute if you participate in gang crimes or commit an offense for the gang's benefit. If you face a conviction for attempted homicide, the court will impose a gang enhancement if these elements are satisfied:

  • You tried to kill someone associated with a gang or other gang members.
  • When you committed the crime, you intended to promote further or aid gang activities.

The seriousness of the punishment you face for violating PC 664 to aid gang activity varies depending on different factors in your case. A conviction for attempted homicide with an enhancement for aiding a street gang could attract life imprisonment without the possibility of parole. However, it is vital to understand that this enhancement will only apply after a conviction. Therefore, fighting to have your charges dismissed is key.

California Three Strikes Law

California’s three-strikes law is the sentencing scheme that gives defendants a prison sentence of twenty-five years to life following a conviction for three or more felonies. A conviction for attempted murder is a strike under this sentencing scheme. Therefore, if you have one prior felony conviction, you will face double the sentence for attempted murder. For example, if you are found guilty of second-degree attempted murder and sentenced to seven years in prison, you will serve up to fourteen years for being a second striker.

If the attempted murder conviction is your third strike, a conviction will result in a prison sentence of twenty-five years to life.

Use of a Firearm

When you use a gun in your attempt to kill another person, you will face a sentencing enhancement under PC 12022,53. As a penalty enhancement, this law section adds a prison sentence of 10,20, and 25 years of life for defendants who commit violent felonies using firearms. The additional sentence is imposed under these circumstances:

  • Up to ten years for using the firearm. CPC 12022.53 imposes a ten-year sentence enhancement if you use a firearm to commit the crime. The firearm does not need to be loaded or discharged. Using a gun to hit someone in the head could attract this enhancement.
  • Twenty years for discharging the gun. If you attempt to kill someone by discharging a firearm at them, your attempted homicide sentence increases by twenty years. Understanding that this enhancement is applied even when the bullet missed the person is vital.
  • Twenty-five years for causing injury. Attempted murder often involves serious injury to the victim. If you fire a gun and cause injury to someone, you face a twenty-five-year additional sentence. Serious bodily injury is substantial physical harm and does not need to be permanent.

Common Defenses Against Attempted Murder Charges

Although PC 664 is not murder, the accusations are prosecuted severely. A conviction will cause you to spend a lifetime behind bars, among other penalties. Therefore, when you face charges of attempted murder, you must proceed with the guidance of a skilled lawyer. Your attorney can help you fight the charges by filing legal motions to weaken the prosecutor's case, use the prosecution’s evidence against them, or bring out different arguments to diminish your liability for the offense.

Some of the defenses you can use to fight attempted murder charges include:

Lack of Intent to Kill the Person

Attempted murder is a specific intent crime. Therefore, the court will not find you guilty of the offense unless the prosecution can prove that you intended to commit murder. You can argue that you intended to scare the person or injure them. Although this defense may not cause dismissal of your charges, it can see you face charges for a lesser offense like assault or mayhem.

You did not Take Steps to Kill

The second element that proves your guilt for attempted murder is accompanying your intention to kill with a direct step towards accomplishing the intent. Steps taken towards killing someone could include the purchase of a firearm, following the alleged victim alone, and attempting to escape or dispose of the weapons. If you prove that you willfully abandoned the plan and did not take further steps to kill, you will not be found guilty of the offense.

False Accusations

The consequences of attempted murder are severe. Therefore, a person could accuse you of the crime because of jealousy, revenge, or an attempt to pass the liability to you. When asserting this defense, a skilled attorney can investigate the case's circumstances and uncover the false allegations.

Mistaken Identity

Most violent offenses are carried out in dark or secluded areas. Additionally, a victim could be distraught and unable to identify the suspect correctly. If you have similar physical features as the perpetrator, you can be a victim of mistaken identification. Being near the crime is another factor that could put you facing attempted murder charges.

You Acted in Self Defense

In California, you have a right to use force when defending yourself or another person from the risk of harm. However, the court will only accept your argument of self-defense or defense of others under the following circumstances:

  • You suffered a physical attack or witnessed another person being attacked using a force that could cause injury
  • You believed that you or the third party was in danger of serious injury or death
  • You did not begin the physical altercation but instead acted to protect yourself or the other person from harm
  • You used a force that was only necessary to prevent the harm, and you did not intend to harm the other person

Illegal Search and Seizure

Police officers are often ruthless toward individuals suspected of committing serious crimes like murder or attempted murder. However, even when you face a criminal charge, you have a right against illegal searches and seizures, corked confessions, and other forms of police misconduct. If the police gathered the evidence presented against you illegally, your attorney could file a motion to exclude the evidence from your case. Exclusion of a police report will weaken the prosecutor’s case and increase your chances of beating the charges.

Insanity Defense

California Attempted murder laws are designed to punish individuals who intend and make attempts to kill others. If an individual is incapable of controlling their emotions or does not understand the action, they cannot be found liable under this statute. If you have a mental condition that makes you incapable of making sound decisions, your lawyer can assert insanity as a defense to your charges.

Crimes Charged Along with Attempted Murder

A violation of PC 664 laws is a violent felony. The prosecution could file charges for the following related crimes alongside or instead of attempted murder in California:

Drive by Shooting

Gun crimes generate the outrage of society which sympathize with victims and demand punishment of the perpetrators. A drive-by shooting is a crime that involves willfully or maliciously discharging a firearm from a vehicle. Allowing another individual to bring a firearm to your vehicle could also attract charges under this statute. Shooting from a vehicle is charged under California PC 26100 and has the following elements;

  • You willfully fire a gun from a vehicle.
  • You willfully and maliciously shot another individual from within the vehicle.
  • You deliberately allowed someone to carry a firearm to your car
  • You allowed the person to shoot someone from within the car

If you face an arrest for shooting a firearm from a vehicle, the prosecution can charge you with drive-by shooting and attempted murder. Drive-by shooting can be a wobbler or a straight felony. As a straight felony, the offense is punishable by a seven-year prison sentence.

A wobbler offense can attract felony or misdemeanor charges. A misdemeanor conviction under this statute will cause you to spend a year in jail. However, if you face felony charges, you risk facing up to three years in state prison.

Shooting at an Inhabited Dwelling

California law regulates firearm use in the state. You can face arrest and criminal charges under PC 246 for carrying a firearm in public or firing it in an inhabited house or occupied vehicle. Before the court finds you guilty of violating PC 246 laws, the following elements must be clear:

  • You intentionally and maliciously shot a firearm
  • You shot the firearm in an inhabited dwelling or an occupied vehicle

Shooting in an inhabited building is likely to cause injuries or death to the occupants. Therefore, it is common for the prosecution to interchange this offense with attempted murder. Shooting into an occupied car or house is a felony whose conviction attracts:

  • A state prison sentence ranging from three to seven years
  • A maximum of $10,000 in fines
  • Formal probation
  • Loss of Gun rights


California PC 206 defines torture as the infliction of great bodily harm on someone intending to cause extreme pain or suffering. Motivation is the main element that sets the crime of torture aside from other related crimes like mayhem. The court will find you guilty of PC 206 if your actions are motivated by extortion, revenge, or sadistic purposes. When establishing your guilt for torture, the prosecution must prove that:

  • You inflicted serious physical injury on another person
  • Your actions were motivated by revenge, extortion, or persuasion
  • You intended to cause cruel suffering or pain to the victim

The prosecution can associate torture with an attempt to kill the person and thus charge you with both offenses. Violation of PC 206 is a felony punishable by a life sentence and fines amounting to $10,000. Additionally, a conviction for torture could attract a sentence enhancement under the California Three Strikes law.

Solicitation of a Crime

California PC 653f criminalizes the act of soliciting another person to violate the law. Soliciting a crime means that you communicate a request for the person to commit a crime. If you solicit another person to commit murder and their attempt fails, you can face criminal charges for attempted first-degree murder and solicitation of a crime. The elements that help prove your liability under this statute include:

  • You asked someone else to commit a crime
  • You intended to commit the offense
  • The other person receives your communication containing the request to commit a crime.

The penalties you face following a conviction for soliciting a crime vary depending on the crime you intended to execute. For misdemeanor offenses soliciting a crime attracts a one-year jail sentence and $1000 in fines. If you solicit a person to commit a felony offense, a conviction under PC 653f is punishable by a four-year prison sentence and $10,000 in fines.

Aggravated Battery

A battery is the willful touching of someone else offensively. If you commit the crime of battery and cause serious injury to the alleged victim, the prosecution will file charges for aggravated battery under California PC 243(d). Your criminal charges for the aggravated battery will result in a conviction if the prosecution can establish the following facts of your case:

  • You intentionally touched another person.
  • Your contact with the victim’s body was offensive
  • The person suffered serious physical injuries
  • You were not acting in self-defense or defense of another’s

When police officers arrest you for causing harm to someone else. The prosecution files charges for the most serious offense that the evidence can support. Therefore, you could face attempted murder instead of aggravated battery.

Battery causing serious injury can attract felony or misdemeanor charges depending on the severity of the injuries and your criminal history. For a misdemeanor conviction, the court sentences you to one year in county jail, a minimum of $1,00 in fines, or summary probation. On the other hand, a felony conviction attracts a prison sentence of four years, felony probation, and victim restitution.

Find a Skilled Criminal Lawyer Near Me

If you intend to kill someone, taking immediate but unsuccessful steps to accomplish the killing will attract arrest and criminal charges for attempted murder in California. While attempted murder does not result in the loss of life, it is as serious as murder. The penalties you face following a conviction for attempted murder vary depending on the crime you are charged with. However, the consequences are life-altering for both first and second-degree attempted murder.

Although the justice system is strict when prosecuting violent felonies like attempted murder, your arrest does not have to end in a conviction. With a skilled attorney by your side, you can use various arguments to build a defense to avoid the harsh consequences of a conviction for violating PC 664 charges.

At the California Criminal Lawyer group, we have extensive knowledge and experience on attempted murder laws and how to apply them to fight your charges. If you face criminal charges for a violent felony like attempted murder in Anaheim, CA, you will need our legal expertise by your side. Contact us today at 714-766-0965 and allow us to guide you through the process of securing a favorable outcome in your case.