What is Attempted Murder?

attempted murder
Attempted murder under California law is when you intend to kill someone and take a direct step towards killing that person but he or she does not die. In order to be convicted of this crime you have to have:

  • taken at least one but an ineffective step towards killing another person or fetus, and
  • intended to kill that person.

A direct step is anything beyond the planning of a murder. This could be attacking someone with a weapon or having someone else do it for you. You cannot be convicted of this crime if it can’t be proven that you intended to kill someone.

Penalties for Attempted Murder

This crime is a felony but is divided up into two categories – first-degree and second-degree.


First-degree attempted murder means that you acted willfully, deliberately and premeditated the crime. The penalty for this crime is a life sentence in a California state prison with the possibility of parole. If this crime was committed against a peace officer then you face the same penalty but with a minimum 15-year prison sentence.


Second-degree attempted murder is any murder attempt that is not willful, deliberate, or premeditated. The penalty for this crime is five, seven, or nine years in a state prison.

Additional Penalties

First or second-degree attempted murder additional penalties include:

  • victim restitution,
  • a maximum fine of $10,000, and
  • the loss of the right to own, possess, or acquire a firearm.

This crime is a violent crime so it falls under California’s three strike law, resulting in a “strike” on your record.

Legal Defenses for Attempted Murder

This is a very serious crime and an experienced criminal defense lawyer can help you fight the charges. Here are some of the common legal defenses for attempted murder.

You did not specifically intend to kill

You have to have had the intent to kill a person when committing this crime or you can’t be guilty of this crime. You could have only intended to injure the person or scare them. Top Lawyers Fresno can help prove to the jury that you only intended one of these, a less severe crime, and get the attempted murder charges dropped.

You did not take the direct step

You can have the entire murder planned out and what to do afterwards, but if you do not take the direct step towards killing that person, then you can’t be guilty of attempted murder. You may have been caught before this direct step or decided not to go through with it before taking action. If you take the direct step and then decide to stop you are still guilty of attempted murder.

You were falsely accused or wrongfully arrested

People are falsely accused all the time because you match a similar description, drive the same type of car, or were in the wrong place at the wrong time. An experienced criminal defense lawyer knows what questions to ask to get to the truth.

You acted in self-defense

California’s self-defense laws allow you to use reasonable force to defend yourself if you reasonably believe that your or another person are about to suffer bodily injury. If you are attacked with deadly force, you are allowed to counterattack with deadly force.

It’s important to hire an experienced criminal defense lawyer when facing charges for attempted murder.

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