A common issue that arises very often for a Los Angeles criminal defense attorney is when his client is charged not with having committed a crime but with an attempt to commit a crime. Common examples of these attempted crimes are attempted murder, attempted rape, attempted robbery and attempted receiving stolen property.
These types of attempt crimes come up in many different scenarios and in this blog I discuss certain issues that are common in attempt crime cases. The information contained in this blog should not replace a consultation with a criminal defense attorney who has knowledge of your particular case. If you or a loved one is being charged attempt, you will need to discuss your with a who can advise you as to the important aspects of your case.
ELEMENTS OF ATTEMPT
An attempt crime is committed when a person forms a specific intent to commit a crime, this specific intent is coupled with a direct, act that goes towards the commission of that crime.
In order for a person to be charged with an attempt crime, that person has to do the following:
(1) Possess a specific intent to commit a criminal act; and
(2) Commit a direct act done towards the completion of that particular criminal act.
The act in furtherance of the criminal act does not need to be a major move towards the completion of that crime. For instance in a robbery it is enough that the person acquires the tools necessary to complete the robbery, that person doesn’t actually have to go to the scene of where the robbery takes place and change his mind or be stopped by the police. The crime of attempted robbery has occurred once the person forms the intent to commit the act and also obtains a gun to go do it.
Another common example usually involves undercover police officers who persuade a person to purchase what they claim to be a stolen item. Since the item is not actually stolen but belongs to the Police, the person can be charged with the crime of attempted receiving stolen property rather than actually receiving stolen property because the item was not in fact stolen.
A similar attempt crime is charged when the undercover police officer sells what is purported to be drugs to a person.
If the attempt crime is attempted murder, a person may not be charged with a varying degree of attempted murder such as first or second degree, they can however be charged with attempted voluntary manslaughter which is a lesser included crime of murder.
THE INTENT ELEMENT OF AN ATTEMPT CRIME
The intent to commit a specific crime required for a criminal attempt charge to be filed must be coupled with an act in furtherance of the crime. This act must be done simultaneously to the formulation of the intent.
Intent is very difficult to prove for a prosecutor in a criminal case. How does one go about proving what is in another person’s head? Only by the other person telling them what they had in their head or by circumstantial evidence of criminal conduct. These issues arise a lot in attempt cases and that is why it is crucial to have a criminal defense attorney represent you on your case.
THE ACT ELEMENT OF AN ATTEMPT CRIME
As stated above in addition to having the intent to commit a criminal act, the person being charged with the crime of attempt must actually take a step towards committing the criminal act in question.
The act must be overt and unequivocal. It must constitute the beginning of the consummation of the attempted crime. Mere preparation to commit a crime is not enough it must be an act that goes towards the completion of the crime. However, even a slight act in furtherance the commission of a criminal act will suffice for an attempt crime to be charged.
The general rule of thumb when evaluating whether an act constitutes an overt act in furtherance if a crime that can be considered for an attempt crime to be charged is as follows:
- Would the act ordinarily result in the completion of the crime, except for the interruption by some outside force?
If the answer is yes then the crime of attempt may be charged. Prior to answering this question about your particular case, it is best to consult a criminal defense attorney who will know how to best advise you.
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PUNISHMENT FOR ATTEMPT CRIMES
The various punishments and sentencing ranges for attempt crimes depends on the punishment prescribed for the crime attempted. Logically a person is in much bigger trouble if he is being charged with the crime of attempted murder than if that same person was being charged with attempted receiving stolen property or attempted possession of a controlled substance.
The ranges punishments for attempts to commit crimes are set out in the California Penal Code and vary just as much as the punishments for the actual crime attempted.
Some crimes are governed by the California penal code specifically. Most however are not, and the general rules of punishments for attempted criminal acts are as follows:
- An attempt to commit a willful, deliberate, and premeditated murder, as is punishable by imprisonment in the state prison for life with the possibility of parole.
- If the attempted murder is on a police officer, then the attempted murder is generally punishable by imprisonment in the state prison for life with the possibility of parole;
- An attempt to commit any other criminal act for which the maximum sentence is life imprisonment or death is punishable by imprisonment in state prison for five, seven, or nine years;
- An attempt to commit a criminal act for which the maximum penalty is not life imprisonment or death, is punishable by imprisonment in state prison for one-half the prison term for the attempted crime;
- An attempt to commit a criminal act for which the punishment is imprisonment in county jail is punishable by imprisonment in county jail for no more than one-half the jail term for the attempted crime; and
- An attempt to commit a crime for which the punishment is a fine is punishable by a fine of no more than one-half the largest fine that can be imposed for the attempted crime.
A CRIMINAL DEFENSE ATTORNEY CAN HELP!
Navigating through the muddy waters of the California criminal justice system is not an easy task. People who are charged with crimes often deal with many problems that they do not know how to deal with. That is why the earlier that you hire an experienced criminal defense attorney to help you, the better your chances. At SIGAL LAW GROUP, we pride ourselves on a track record of results from our clients facing criminal charges.