What is Attempted Murder?

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Like many states, California punishes the crime of attempted murder severely. In order to be convicted of attempted murder, the following elements must be proven:


1) The defendant took a direct step towards killing someone, and

2) The defendant intended to kill that person.


In order to satisfy the first element, the prosecution must demonstrate that the defendant moved beyond mere preparation or planning for the murder. Rather, the defendant must have actually taken a step that put his or her plan into motion. And in order to satisfy the second element, the prosecution must demonstrate that the defendant actually intended for the victim to die.




Attempted murder in California can be charged in either the first or second degree. A first-degree attempted murder conviction means that the attempt was deliberate, willful, and premeditated. A first-degree attempted murder conviction can result in a sentence of life in prison with the possibility of parole. And if the attempted murder was committed against a peace officer who was engaged in the performance of his or her duties, the defendant faces a possible life sentence and a mandatory 15-year sentence.

A second-degree attempted murder conviction (any murder attempt that isn’t deliberate, willful, and premeditated) can result in up to a nine-year prison sentence. In addition, first and second-degree attempted murder can result in the following penalties:


  • Restitution to the victim
  • A fine of up to $10,000
  • The loss of the right to possess a firearm




One of the most common defenses to an attempted murder charge is to disprove one or both of the elements discussed above. If either of these elements can be disproved, then the defendant cannot be convicted of attempted murder. An additional way to defend against attempted murder charges in California is via a self-defense claim. In California, an individual may repel another’s use of deadly force by responding in kind. However, when a defendant raises self-defense in an attempted murder case, he or she must present evidence that the amount of force used was reasonable in comparison to that used by the attacker. If a defendant uses force that exceeds that used by an attacker, then he or she may still be convicted of attempted murder.


San Diego Criminal Defense Attorneys


Due to the potential consequences involved, it is important that anyone charged with misdemeanor or felony attempted murder in San Diego, California, seek the guidance of an experienced criminal defense attorney. At the Law Offices of Kerry L. Armstrong, our experienced criminal defense attorneys provide all of our clients with expert legal guidance in order to achieve the most favorable results possible in both misdemeanor and felony attempted murder cases. The talent and experience of our San Diego, California, attorneys ensures that our clients’ misdemeanor and felony attempted murder cases are handled expertly and with the utmost care. If you or a loved one is facing misdemeanor or felony attempted murder charges in California, please contact us immediately for a free consultation.

Author Photo

Kerry L. Armstrong


Attorney Kerry Armstrong opened up his law firm in June 2007. Mr. Armstrong attended Thomas Jefferson School of Law, San Diego, California, and received his B.S. from Middle Tennessee State University. Kerry L. Armstrong became certified by the State Bar of California’s Board of Legal Specialization for criminal law in August 2020, making him one of the few criminal defense attorneys with a criminal law legal specialization certificate in San Diego County.  Between 2014 – 2019, Mr. Armstrong was selected for inclusion in the California Super Lawyers list, an honor only awarded to 5% of the nation’s attorneys.

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