A man is facing criminal charges for driving his car into an El Cajon motel. According to reports, the man got into a verbal altercation with the motel’s front desk clerk and threatened to hurt him. A few hours later, the man returned and intentionally drove his car into the building. The clerk sustained serious injuries and was transported to a local San Diego hospital. The man was arrested for multiple crimes, including attempted murder.
What is an Attempted Crime?
It’s a crime to violate the laws of the state of California. It can also be a crime to attempt to violate the laws of the state of California. California Penal Code 21a defines what it means to “attempt” a crime.
An attempt requires two things. First you, you must have a specific intent to commit a crime. Second, you must have taken some direct step toward committing that crime.
So, attempt involves more than simply wanting to commit a crime. It also requires some “direct but ineffectual act.” Here are some examples:
- Dan points a gun at Joe and pulls the trigger with the intent to kill him. The bullet hits Joe but doesn’t kill him. Pulling the trigger was a direct but ineffectual act in the commission of the crime.
- Sam, angry with Jan for dating her ex, slips poison into her drink at a bar one evening. Jan becomes severely ill, but survives because the dose wasn’t strong enough to kill her. Slipping the poison into the drink was a direct but ineffectual step in killing Jan
Two primary defenses can be asserted in an attempt case. First, you argue that you did not have the specific intent to commit a crime. You can present evidence to (a) support your side of the story and (b) undermine the state’s evidence. Second, you argue that you did not take a substantial step toward committing the crime. The state has to show that you did more than prepared or planned; you have to have actually taken a direct step.
How Does the State Prove Intent?
Penal Code 21a requires a specific intent to commit a crime. Since intent is a state of mind, prosecutors often rely on a mix of direct and circumstantial evidence to support criminal charges. Direct evidence doesn’t require any inferences. Instead, it’s clear that something is true. Circumstantial evidence, on the other hand, can be used to create a reasonable presumption that something is true.
Here, a man was arrested on suspicion of attempted murder. Police believe that he had the specific intent to kill the motel clerk. Evidence that might be used to prove intent could include:
- The dispute between the man and the clerk before the incident
- Verbal threats to hurt the clerk, and
- The part of the building he chose to drive his car into.
Why does it matter where the man drove his vehicle into the building? The location can offer a lot of insight into intent. Here, the man drove his vehicle directly into the spot where the motel clerk was located. A judge or jury could infer that he did this because he intended to kill the man. Had the man driven his vehicle into a nearby part of the building, the inference could be different. A judge or jury could infer that the man simply intended to frighten or scare the clerk, rather than kill him.
Intent is an essential element of the crime of attempt. If the state can’t prove intent, charges of attempt cannot succeed.
How Much Jail Time Can You Get For an Attempted Crime?
Attempting to commit a crime can be just as serious as successfully committing that crime. Under Penal Code 664 PC, an attempt is generally punishable by about half of the term of imprisonment that applies to the underlying crime.
Here, the San Diego man was arrested for attempting to commit a murder. The penalties for attempted murder are unique.
First degree attempted murder, which involves a willful, deliberate, and premeditated attempt to kill another person, is punishable by life in prison with the possibility of parole.
Second degree attempted murder, which is not premeditated, is punishable by a maximum of 9 years in prison.
Have you been accused of attempting to commit a crime in San Diego? Contact the Law Office of Vikas Bajaj for immediate assistance. Our criminal defense attorneys are prepared to help you fight to protect your future. Your first consultation is free, so call our office for help now.