San Bernardino and Riverside Attempted Crimes Attorney

client discussing attempted crime charges with attorney

Under California law, attempted crimes can constitute a crime in itself. For prosecutors to bring charges against the defendant for an attempted crime, the prosecutor must prove two crucial elements. First, the prosecution must prove that the defendant intended to commit the crime. Second, the prosecutor must prove that the defendant took significant but ultimately ineffective steps towards committing that crime. 

Contact a San Bernardino and Riverside Attempted Crimes Lawyer As Soon As Possible

Attempted crimes carry harsh penalties in California, and the punishment depends on the seriousness of the attempted crime. In many cases, attempting to commit a crime will carry a jail sentence of about one-half of the sentence had the crime been committed. If you or your loved one has been charged with an attempted crime in California, it’s crucial that you discuss your case with a criminal defense lawyer as soon as possible. With offices in Sacramento and Riverside, attorney Ronald L. Freeman is prepared to defend your rights. Contact the Law Offices of Ronald L. Freeman today.

What Constitutes an Attempted Crime in California?

Attempted crime is defined in California’s Penal Code, sections 21a, 663, and 664. The attempt to commit a crime includes two elements. First, the defendant must have had the specific intent to commit the crime in question. Additionally, the defendant must have taken direct but ineffective steps toward completing the crime

It’s not enough for someone to intend to commit a crime and think about the steps needed to complete the crime. Instead, the defendant must have gone beyond the preparation or planning stages and must have begun putting the plan into action. The prosecution must show that the defendant took a direct step, meaning the defendant had a definite and clear intent to commit the crime. 

When the defendant begins making actual preparations, prosecutors can argue that he or she made a direct movement towards committing the crime. However, merely talking about committing the crime isn’t enough to show the defendant took a direct step toward committing the crime. The direct step must be a “substantial step,” meaning it needs to come close to completing the crime.

Suppose the defendant intended to commit murder. The defendant purchased his first gun and bullets and then told the victim, “I’m going to shoot you the next time I see you.” The prosecutor could introduce this evidence to prove that the defendant intended to commit murder and took a substantial step toward committing murder by purchasing a gun and bullets and telling the victim of his intent to kill. Similarly, if a defendant shot a gun at someone while saying “I’m going to kill you,” this would be considered a substantial step towards committing murder. In both of these cases, the prosecution would bring attempted murder charges against the defendant.

The Penalties for Attempted Crimes in California

 The penalties for an attempted crime will vary based on the underlying crime. For example, the penalties for attempted shoplifting will be less than the penalties for attempted murder. In all cases, the punishment for attempting a crime is less than if the defendant completed the crime. Under California law, people who attempt to commit a crime but fail are typically sentenced to a prison term of one-half of the prison term they would have gotten if they completed the crime. There are exceptions to this general rule, however, such as:

  • Willful, deliberate, and premeditated murder attempts carry a prison sentence for life with the possibility of parole
  • Attempts to commit crimes for which the maximum prison sentence is life imprisonment or death is punishable by a prison sentence of five, seven, or nine years
  • Attempts to commit misdemeanors are punishable by one-half of the prison term prescribed upon a conviction of the original offense

Defense Strategies

Every attempted crime case is unique. The best way to prepare a legal defense is to speak to a skilled criminal defense lawyer to evaluate all of the facts in your case and develop a strategy. Most legal defense strategies center around proving that the prosecution has not provided enough evidence to prove the elements of the attempted crime.

Impossibility Defense

When the defendant has attempted to commit a crime, but unexpected circumstances stopped him or her from doing so, the defendant can use the impossibility defense. The impossibility defense only applies to situations where it was legally impossible but not factually impossible for the defendant to commit the crime. Suppose the defendant intended to steal someone’s wallet from his back pocket. When the defendant put his hand into the victim’s back pocket, he found no wallet. 

In some states, the defendant would be able to argue that it was factually impossible for him to commit theft. This defense is not acceptable in California, however. An example of a valid legal impossibility would be a defendant who had consensual sexual relations with a woman he thinks is age 15. The woman is 25. In this case, there is no law against sexual relations with an adult, even if the defendant thought he was breaking the law.

Abandonment Defense

Defendants charged with inchoate offenses, such as conspiracy, attempt, and solicitation, may use the abandonment defense. When a defendant intends to commit a crime but voluntarily withdraws from the crime before it was completed, the defendant can claim abandonment. However, suppose the defendant decided the crime was too difficult to commit or stop to avoid being arrested or focus on a different victim. In that case, the abandonment defense will not succeed.

Discuss Your Case With a Felony Attempted Crimes Lawyer in Southern California 

Are you facing a criminal charge for an attempted crime in the greater San Bernardino area? If so, you will benefit from speaking to an experienced criminal defense lawyer. If you are convicted, your future may be in jeopardy. You could face jail time, fines, probation, and difficulty finding employment and/or housing. Attorney Ronald L. Freeman will provide you with the skilled and strategic legal defense you need. Contact the Law Offices of Ronald L. Freeman today to request a free, no-obligation consultation.