Attempted Murder Law in California – Penal Code 664/187 PC


The violent crime of attempted murder is one of the most serious crimes a person can be charged with. If the prosecutors can prove that the subject defendant deliberated and premeditated before trying to kill another person, then the judge must sentence that person to 15 to life in state prison.

Under these circumstances, the person that is sentenced will have to serve eighty five percent of fifteen years before they are actually eligible to be parole. Further, it is possible the Parole Board could never let them out of custody. Therefore, these cases can be just as serious as murder cases and they require the best most experienced criminal defense attorneys to defend them.

General Information:

The key thing that the prosecutors must prove before they can actually convict a person of attempted murder is that they had the specific intent to kill another person. This is where the defense against this crime usually can be established.

Many times a person attacks another person, but then breaks off the attack because they realize the other person is no longer a threat to them. Under these circumstances, the defense would have a good argument that the defendant did not harbor the specific intent to kill, because they broke off the attack before actually inflicting enough damage to kill the other party.


According to California Penal Code Section 664/187, attempt is considered a specific intent crime and the prosecution must prove beyond a reasonable doubt that the defendant acted intentionally and deliberately and that there was a substantial step taken towards the commission of the crime.

The usual scenario that I see in these cases involves one person firing a weapon at another person. Under these circumstances, the prosecutors would have a strong argument to prove that the shooter was trying to kill the other person. However, depending on what came before the actual shooting, there still could be a defense for the shooter.

If a person acted deliberately and intentionally with extreme disregard for human life in attempting to inflict fatal bodily injury, then that person will likely be charged with attempted murder.

This is another angle under the right circumstances for the prosecutors to charged a person with attempted murder. For example, if someone is driving a car in a crazy manner and runs over another person, then I have seen the prosecutors charge attempted murder and want a significant sentence for the subject defendant.

However, they will have to prove more than just reckless driving, they will have to show the subject drive acted so wanton and with a depraved heart as to go past mere negligence and go into a zone that very few sane people will travel.

Although attempted murder is lesser than murder charges, the penalties are still severe and a conviction may result in many years in prison. As your Attorneys in Van Nuys we investigate the charges and do everything we can to rebut and contest all the evidence presented against you. (Lack of intent or self defense is the most common defense to attempted murder).

With our 75 years of combined experience and our outstanding legal skill and strategy we can guarantee competent, persistent, and aggressive representation. Get in touch with us and set up a free consultation.

Elements of the Crime for Attempted Murder

In order to find a person guilty of attempted murder, the government must prove that:

  1. The person took at least a direct, but ineffective step toward killing another person;
  2. The defendant intended to kill that person.

A direct step is defined as an act that is more than planning or preparing to commit murder, it is an overt act in furtherance of a plan to commit murder. In other words, it is an act that puts a person’s plan to murder into motion.

Additionally, a person can still be found for responsible for attempted murder even if after they made a direct step, they abandoned their plan, or their plan failed.

As you might guess, some of the law and circumstances surrounding an attempted murder case case be complex and not easy to understand. Therefore, it is always best to consult with an expert who has handled these cases, knows how to defend them and can give you an honest assessment of what you are facing and what must be done to defend you under the circumstances of your particular case.

California Criminal Jury Instruction 600 For Attempted Murder

When it comes to an attempted murder charges under California Penal Code Section 664/187, I’ve defended many of them over the course of the last twenty-five years.  The jury instructions actually look pretty simple but they’re not that simple because once you dig into these cases, there’s a lot more that’s going on.

There’s a lot more than meets the eye.  So, when the jury instructions are given to a jury, they’re basically told the defendant is charged with attempted murder.  In order to prove a defendant guilty of attempted murder, the prosecution has to show the following two elements:

  • The defendant took at least one direct but ineffective step towards killing another person;
  • The defendant intended to kill that person.

Let’s break these things down because they’re not that easy and it’s not that clear. When it comes to taking a step towards killing somebody – that means, a perfect example that the prosecutors could get if they could prove, either through direct or circumstantial evidence – is that somebody fired a weapon at another person and missed them, and the person then got away.

That would certainly be a step towards trying to kill somebody if you’re firing a weapon at somebody.  But a lot of these cases are not that simple.  Even take the simple firing a weapon at somebody.  If somebody else is firing a weapon at you and you fire back at them, that’s self-defense.  That’s not guilty.

So, it’s not always that clear-cut and there’s all sorts of different defenses that can be utilized when it comes to these attempted murder cases.  Sometimes people do certain things that don’t rise to the level of being a significant-enough substantial step in order to get somebody for attempted murder, and there’s all sorts of examples of that.

That’s where you have to get with your criminal defense attorney and go over these jury instructions, because these jury instructions are going to control whether or not a person is found guilty or not guilty when they’re put in front of a jury.

So, these Cal Crim 600 jury instructions are the ones that the judicial council uses and there’s all sorts of different bench notes and all sorts of different angles that can be used.  One of the biggest angles that I use all the time in these attempted murder cases is, you actually have to have the intent to kill the person.

If you get in a fight with somebody and you beat them a number of times and then you break off your attack, that’s not attempting to kill somebody.  If you remember way back when the Reginald Benny, case, that poor guy got attacked by a bunch of people.

They beat him senseless.  It was horrible news, but I think they were found not guilty because they broke the attack off.  They didn’t keep going until this gentleman was dead.  That’s a huge issue.  If somebody stops an attack and they can’t prove that they intended to kill the other person, then there’s no way they’re going to get him for attempted murder.

The second element is exactly what I’m talking about – that you actually have to kill the person.  If you’re just trying to hurt somebody, for example, which is a horrible example but it’s true, if you shoot him in the leg, you’re not trying to kill that person.

So, there’s all different crazy circumstances that have gone on in my career over twenty-five years and out there in Los Angeles county which is a very busy metropolis.  So, if somebody is not intending to kill another person, then there’s no way that they’re going to be able to be convicted of attempted murder because you’re looking at 15 to life just for attempted murder alone.

If you used a weapon, there’s all sorts of weapon enhancements.  There’s a lot of stuff going on here when it comes to these attempted murder cases and being able to even prove a direct step towards killing somebody.

That means you have to plan it.  You have to think about it.  You have to arrange it.  If somebody’s not thinking about it and planning it, then they’re not going to get convicted of attempted murder.  Now certainly, somebody can very spontaneously and quickly come up with a plan to kill somebody, but if it’s just a spontaneous act depending on the circumstances, that’s another angle to attack an attempted murder case.

Contact an Experienced Criminal Lawyer

So, really what I do because there are so many different angles – self-defense – and being able to attack the elements of an attempted murder case and being able to show that the other party did some things that were very dangerous and that you might have just been trying to defend yourself or defend another person.

That can definitely be a defense when it comes to an attempted murder charge.  So, I have you come in, we go over everything.  We figure out exactly what needs to be done to defend you based on the circumstances that you or a loved one find yourself in.  Contact the Hedding Law Firm for help.

That Penal Code Section 664/187 in San Fernando or Van Nuys, CA is not an easy one to prove, and if it is proven, it’s horrible consequences for the defendant and that’s why you have to get the best criminal defense attorney by your side in order to protect your rights, your freedom, your reputation, assert all motions available and challenge the prosecutors every step of the way.