Attempted murder is a serious violent felony in California, which is convicted almost as harshly as murder. Attempted murder is always a felony, and a conviction can alter your life significantly, not to mention the stigma and damage to your reputation that such charges can bring. In addition to these consequences, it may be difficult and expensive to secure release on bail. California sets the bail for attempted murder anywhere between $500,000 and $1,000,000. The California Criminal Lawyer Group assists people arrested for attempted murder access bail (by referring you to a bail agent if you cannot afford the full amount or representing you during the bail hearings) and fight the charges against them at trial. The attorney also provides detailed information to clients to help them understand the charges they are facing, the consequences, and the possible defenses.


Overview of Attempted Murder

Attempted murder refers to an unsuccessful trial to kill another person whom you intended to kill. In California, attempted murder refers to a crime, which is committed where the following elements are true:

  • You intended to kill someone
  • You took direct and substantial steps towards committing the murder, but the victim does not die

The intent in attempted murder refers to a state of mind that displays a fixation, desire, or the goal to kill another person. It goes beyond the intention to cause injury to the person. For example, if you shoot at someone on the head, your actions display the intent to kill. However, if you shoot at an object away from the person, the law may not interpret the offense as one committed with the intention to kill.

The intention to kill or malice aforethought may be stated clearly by the offender or implied by his or her actions.

Direct actions and substantial steps refer to actions that go beyond planning. You must have executed these plans, but they failed, or you withdrew from committing the offense. For example, if you think about killing someone but take no action towards it, then you cannot be charged with attempted murder. However, if you take a gun and shoot at the person, then you are culpable.

Proving these elements is challenging for the prosecution, particularly due to the requirement to meet the "beyond reasonable doubt" standard. The prosecution derives from the implications of your actions to prove these elements. For instance, carrying a gun does not demonstrate an intent to kill. However, shooting the gun at another person using armor-piercing ammunition, for instance, implies that you intend to do more than injure the victim.

Prosecutors also use extremely negligent actions to show your intent to kill. Actions committed with extreme carelessness show a disregard for human life, even when the offender knows that the action is life-threatening.

The prosecution can also use your admissions and confessions, whether written or spoken, to prove your intent to kill.

In some cases, the prosecution might use the kill zone theory to prosecute you for attempted murder. A kill zone is an area of danger created by the defendant. Such an area poses a threat of injury or death of people other than the intended target.

In other cases, a kill zone is an area in which a killer intends to kill everyone. Previously, California allowed prosecutors to use this theory to prosecute a defendant who risked the lives of others (whether they are injured or not) by attempting to kill his or her target.

However, the California Supreme court overturned the kill zone theory in prosecuting attempted murder cases. The use of the theory was limited to the specific cases where the defendant intended to kill everyone, including the target. Such kill-zones are establishing to ensure that the target dies.



The penalties for attempted murder depend on whether you are charged with first or second-degree attempted murder. First-degree attempted murder refers to an unsuccessful premeditated murder. The penalties include a life sentence in state prison with the possibility of parole. If a victim was a peace officer or another protected person, the sentence includes a mandatory sentence of at least fifteen years.

Second-degree attempted murder is the attempted unlawful killing of another person without a prior will, deliberation or premeditation. It is punishable by a state prison sentence of five, seven, or nine years.

In addition to imprisonment, penalties for attempted murder include:

  • Paying fines not exceeding $10,000
  • Paying victim restitution
  • Loss of firearm rights
  • A strike on your criminal record

Note that a prior strike results in the doubling of your sentence. If you get three strikes, you will get a minimum of 25 years in state prison.

The court may also impose a gang-sentencing enhancement if the attempted murder was a part of a gang-related activity or was meant to further the activities of a criminal gang. The minimum sentence, in this case, is fifteen years with the potential of serving life in state prison.

Another common sentence enhancement in attempted murder charges includes:

  • An additional and consecutive 10-year term for using a gun
  • An additional 20 years for firing a gun
  • Twenty-five years to life, additional and consecutive sentence for killing another person or causing great bodily injury when using a gun.

Attempted murder is a deportable crime; therefore, if you are an immigrant facing attempted murder charges, you should contact a criminal defense attorney who understands immigration laws and how these laws relate to other criminal laws.


Legal Defenses

Attempted murder has the potential of a life sentence depending on the circumstances of the offense. However, with the right defense attorney and strategies, you stand a better chance at fighting these charges.


California allows you to use reasonable force against another person if you have a reasonable belief that you or another person faces imminent danger of injury or death from the person. To prove that you were acting in self-defense, you have to show that:

  • You reasonably believed that you or another person was in immediate danger of great bodily injury or death from the defendant. Imminent danger means that it is immediate and likely to occur, given the behavior of the person. For example, if he or she is holding a gun against you, then it is reasonable to believe that your life is in danger.
  • You reasonably believed that you must have used force under the circumstances
  • You used reasonable force to defend yourself or another person.

When you use self-defense as a defense, the burden shifts to the prosecution to prove that you did not act in self-defense, prosecutors will prove this by examining the circumstances of the offense.

You could use self-defense even if you had the chance to escape the other person but instead chose to stand your ground.

Wrongful Arrest

A wrongful arrest could lead to an attempted murder conviction, especially when you do not have a competent defense lawyer fighting for you. A wrongful arrest could arise from:

  • Wrongful identification by witnesses
  • Fabrication of evidence
  • False accusations by another person
  • Mistaken identity especially where you are found at the crime scene or with items associated with the crime scene

Fighting a wrongful arrest requires that your attorney examines the witnesses and collects evidence that points away from you.


The defense of insanity applies if you can prove that at the time of the offense, you could not understand the nature of the act, neither were you aware that it was wrong. By pleading guilty to the charges of attempted murder due to insanity, you are likely to get a sanity hearing where expert witnesses such as psychiatrists will examine your mental health and determine whether a mental illness impaired your state of mind at the time of the offense.

Insanity does not apply to conditions arising from drug addiction or intoxication. You must be suffering from a temporary or permanent mental illness.

If you can prove insanity, the court will dismiss your charges; as such, a state of mind would prevent you from forming the required criminal intent to commit murder.

You did not take a direct action

For attempted murder to be complete, you have to take direct action in executing your plan to kills someone. The prosecution must prove that you made a substantial effort to complete the murder, and would have been successful if outside factors had not interfered.

For example, if you are caught during the planning or preparation for the offense, then you cannot be guilty of attempted murder. You can also use this defense if you voluntarily quit your plan before taking any steps to execute the plan. In this case, you can use the defense of abandonment to prove that even though you planned to kill the person, you stopped yourself from executing the plan.

Police misconduct

Attempted murder cases feature numerous misconduct by police officers. When collecting evidence for attempted murder, some officers may be too zealous that they engage in misconduct such as:

  • Planting of evidence
  • Fabrication of evidence
  • Tampering with the scene of the crime
  • Use of excessive force when arresting you
  • False testimony in court
  • Falsification of police reports

If your lawyer can prove such misconduct, then the probability of your charges being dismissed or reduced increases.

Illegal search and seizure

An illegal search and seizure could lead to the discovery of evidence that incriminates you. However, you can challenge this evidence by bringing a motion to suppress any evidence that was gathered during an illegal search and seizure.

Illegal search and seizure occur when an officer searches your vehicle or property without your permission or a court warrant to do so. Such a search is illegal and in violation of your constitutional rights.

If such evidence is central to the prosecution's case, then you stand better chances of a dismissal or charge reduction.

Forced Confessions

The prosecution might use confessions and admission you made about committing the crime to prosecute you. However, if the confessions were coerced, then you can fight against such evidence. Coerced confessions are common in attempted murder cases where officer use one or more of the following techniques to obtain a confession:

  • Incessant questioning even after asserting your Miranda rights
  • The promise for lenient sentencing in exchange for a confession
  • Threats of harm to you or your family
  • Denial of basic needs
  • Torture and mistreatment to force you into an admission of guilt

If you can prove that the officers forced a confession from you, and you had to take a guilty stand to save yourself or your family members, then these charges can be dropped or reduced. Your attorney achieves this by examining the tactics investigators use when drawing the confession. If they amount to coerced confessions, your lawyer will request a motion to suppress the evidence.

Lack of intent

The intent is a necessary element in attempted murder cases. The prosecution must prove that you had the specific intent to kill for you to be guilty of attempted murder. If the prosecution does not have enough evidence against you, your charges may be dismissed. Where the defense is successful, your charges may be reduced to mayhem or assault with a deadly weapon based on the facts of the case.

Defending against attempted murder requires a skilled murder attorney who understands California's attempted murder laws. However, you also play a role in how things turn out for you. For example, if you are arrested and immediately start talking about your remorse for committing the crime, the admissions may be used against you in court.

When you allow an officer to search your home or property, they could find incriminating evidence that worsens your case. Never allow officers to search your place unless they have a search warrant for the specific property. Always seek the advice of your attorney when you are facing such arrests or charges.



When you are convicted for attempted murder, you may be eligible for parole. Parole is a supervised program that allows people sentenced to a state prison term to be placed on parole after the completion of their predetermined sentence or after serving a predetermined part of an indeterminate sentence. The program is available to inmates who meet the eligibility conditions such as:

  • You have shown good conduct during your term. In most cases, good conduct allows you to serve at least half your term
  • You are not a threat to public safety
  • The seriousness of the crime for which you were convicted
  • How you committed the offense
  • The motivation for committing the offense
  • The date of conviction
  • Parole recommendations made by the judge during sentencing (in this case, you will have to serve at least seven years in prison)
  • Your readiness to re-enter the society
  • Your attitude towards parole
  • Your criminal history

If you are eligible for parole, and your application is approved, then you will be released and assigned a parole agent. A parole agent is an official who works with the Department of Correction to help inmates reintegrate into society and supervise their conduct during parole.

A parole officer will design a plan or recommendation for you before you are released. He or she will also help you with arranging for employment, housing, medical care, rehabilitation, and social activities. He or she will also supervise your conduct during parole and report to the parole board. If you violate the parole conditions, the parole agent reviews the case then recommends that you either remain on parole or be re-incarcerated.

Once you are granted parole, you must adhere to several statutory requirements including:

  • You must reside in the county that was your last legal residence before your conviction
  • You must sign a written agreement that allows police officers to search you or your property at any time without a warrant or probable cause
  • You must obey the law
  • You agree to waive extradition
  • You must report to your parole officer within a day of your release, and as required in future
  • You must always inform the parole agent about your most recent address. In case you move, you should provide the agent with the new address before moving
  • You must provide a three-day notice to your parole agent in case of changes in your employment
  • You must adhere to the instruction (verbal or written) from your parole officer
  • The parole officer must approve you for traveling to any area that is 50 miles or more from your residence
  • You must obtain a travel pass and keep it on you when traveling in and out of the state
  • You must notify the parole officer of any arrests or warrants for your arrest
  • You must keep your kitchen knives in the kitchen and not carry a knife whose blade exceeds two inches
  • You must obtain and always carry a written note from your parole officer to allow you to carry a knife that you need for employment purposes
  • You must not possess or have access to prohibited weapons

You will be on parole for at least three years, depending on your situation. If you were also convicted for murder, you might be on parole for life.


Related Offenses

Several offenses can be charged either as a charge reduction to attempted murder, alternative charges, or additional charges. They include:

Attempted Voluntary Manslaughter

If the prosecution cannot successfully prove intent in an attempted murder charge, then the charges can be reduced to attempted voluntary manslaughter. You can be charged with the offense if you acted:

In imperfect self-defense (you had an honest but unreasonable belief that you were in danger)

You committed the act in a moment of provocation (for example, if you found your spouse cheating on you and almost kill him or her due to momentary anger)

Attempted voluntary manslaughter is punishable by a maximum of 51/2 years in state prison.

Soliciting a Person to Commit Murder

PC 653f prohibits the solicitation of another person to commit a crime. The charge when related to attempted murder arises when you contact another person with a request to kill another person, and you intend that he or she commit the offense. You are guilty of soliciting a person to commit a murder, even if they refuse or fail at completing the crime. Solicitation for murder is a felony with a potential state prison sentence of three, six, or nine years and a fine of about $10,000.

Domestic Violence

If you committed attempted murder against a domestic partner, spouse or co-habitant, then the court can charge you with domestic violence alongside attempted murder. The judge has the discretion to either issue a concurrent or consecutive sentence for the offenses.


PC 206 prohibits causing pain and suffering to another person for revenge, extortion, or sadistic purposes. You can be charged with torture and attempted murder if you inflict great bodily harm to another person to cause them pain or to extort, persuade, or revenge against the person. Prosecutors can use torture as proof of a direct action taken in pursuit of committing murder.

Shooting At an Inhabited Dwelling

PC 246 prohibits shooting at an occupied car or an inhabited dwelling. When you violate this law, your actions imply an intent to kill. The offense is usually charged as an additional charge to attempted murder.

Drive-In Shooting

You can be charged with attempted murder if you shoot at one or more people while driving a car. The prosecution assumes that by committing such an offense, you intend to kill at least one person from the group.


Find a California Criminal Lawyer Near Me

You should never attempt to represent yourself in court when facing charges of attempted murder. These are serious charges with the potential of a life sentence. Always hire an attorney with the experience and credentials in handling attempted murder charges. At the California Criminal Lawyer Group, we specialize in defending you against criminal charges. We are experienced in the murder laws of California and the potential defenses. Apart from defending you, we ensure you are informed on all the aspects of attempted murder, plea bargains, and the options you have in the case. We also leverage our relationships with prosecutors and judges, as well as knowledge of the court system to work out the most favorable solution. Call us today at 408-622-0204 for a free evaluation.

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