Accused of Attempting to Commit a Crime?
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Attempting to commit a crime is itself a crime. "Attempt" is
the crime of (1) intending to commit a crime and (2) taking significant
but ultimately ineffective steps toward committing that crime. Attempt
is also referred to as one of the "inchoate" crimes along with
solicitation and conspiracy. These inchoate (meaning incomplete) crimes
often carry harsh penalties and are based on the potential to commit a
crime. Attempt is a separate crime that can be charged on its own. Attempt
law is designed to punish a person who tries to commit a crime but fails
to actually complete it.
The punishment for attempt depends on the seriousness of the attempted
crime. Attempt is usually punished in California by a sentence equal to
one-half of the completed crime. An attempted crime is a lesser included
offense of a completed crime; if the prosecutor proves the completed crime,
the attempt crime is included. In other words, a person can be convicted
of attempted murder or murder, but not both.
How an "Attempt" is Defined Under California Law
In California, attempt law is defined in Penal Code sections 21a, 663 and
664. Attempt to commit a crime consists of basically two elements:
- Specific intent to commit the crime, and
- A direct but ineffective step towards its commission.
A direct step is one that goes beyond planning or preparation and shows
that a person is putting his or her plan into action. A direct step demonstrates
a definite and clear intent to commit the crime. It is a direct movement
towards the commission of the crime if preparations are made. Mere preparation
or discussion is not a direct step. The direct step must come close to
completion of the crime; it must be a "substantial step."
For example, a direct step toward committing murder would be the defendant
buying a gun or bullets shortly after telling the victim, "I am going
to shoot you when I see you next time." In an attempted murder case,
the prosecutor could introduce this evidence to prove the defendant's
intent to commit murder. Shooting at (but missing) a person while yelling
out "I'll kill you," would also be considered a substantial step.
Attempt Crime Penalties in Los Angeles
The punishment for the crime of attempt is lesser than it would be for
the completed crime. In California, every person who attempts to commit
a crime, but fails, or is prevented or intercepted in its preparation,
is generally sentenced to one-half the term of imprisonment that applies
to a conviction for the attempted crime.
However, there are exceptions, including:
- Willful, deliberate, and premeditated murder attempts are punishable by
imprisonment in the state prison for life with the possibility of parole.
- Attempts to commit crimes for which the maximum sentence is life imprisonment
or death are punishable in state prison for five, seven, or nine years.
- Attempts to commit misdemeanors are punishable in county jail by one-half
the term of imprisonment prescribed upon a conviction of the offense attempted.
Defenses to Attempt
In most attempt cases, there will be grounds to argue that the elements
of the attempted crime were not proven. There are two additional defenses
to attempt crimes that may be available: 1) Abandonment or Renunciation
and 2) Impossibility.
Abandonment Defense: The abandonment defense applies to all inchoate offenses (e.g., conspiracy,
attempt and solicitation). "Renunciation" is frequently interchanged
with the term "abandonment." A defendant can assert an abandonment
defense if he can show that he completely and voluntarily withdrew from
the crime before it was completed. The defense is not valid where the
defendant decided that the crime was too difficult to commit, where he
stopped in the middle to avoid apprehension or where he withdrew so he
could focus on a different victim.
Impossibility Defense: The impossibility defense applies when a defendant has attempted to commit
the crime but unexpected circumstances have prevented the crime from occurring.
This defense applies only to legal impossibility situations and not factual
impossibility situations. An example of a factual impossibility defense
to an attempted robbery is a case in which the defendant tries to steal
someone's wallet, but when he puts his hand in the victim's pocket,
he finds there is no wallet.
The defendant will claim it was impossible to have stolen the wallet because
the victim was not carrying a wallet. This type of impossibility (factual)
defense is not accepted in California. An example of a valid legal impossibility
defense to attempted rape is a case in which the defendant has consensual
sexual relations with a woman be thinks is under the age of eighteen (who
is actually 25), believing it is illegal to do so, when in fact there
is no law against consensual sexual relations with an adult.
Arrange a Free Consultation with Our Firm Today
In California, it is possible to be charged with a crime even if you did
not actually commit the crime. Attempt charges are very serious, so choosing
the right attorney could mean the difference between your freedom and
incarceration. The Los Angeles criminal defense attorneys at Stephen G.
Rodriguez & Partners are aggressive and experienced. We have handled
hundreds and hundreds of serious criminal matters in and around Los Angeles
County. Call us for a free and absolutely confidential consultation!
Contact a Los Angeles criminal defense lawyer
from our firm at once if you are facing charges that involve an attempt
to commit a crime.