Not every criminal act is carried out to completion. However, any attempted crime could result in serious legal consequences. Attempted crimes are typically penalized by the court with about the same seriousness as actual crimes. Since the court will not show mercy to the perpetrator on account of incompletion, those suspected of intending to perpetrate a crime are not exempt from the need to hire an expert attorney to defend them. An attempted crime allegation is just as severe as being accused of the crime itself, demanding the services of an attorney in both cases.

To defend yourself against charges of attempted crime and ensure that your rights are safeguarded, you should speak with an experienced criminal defense lawyer who has effectively defended similar charges before.

If you have been charged with a criminal attempt in Los Angeles, you can contact the Los Angeles Criminal Lawyer. Our practice is devoted to criminal defense, and we are prepared to explore all available legal avenues to defend you against the charges. The earlier you hire the services of an attorney to defend you against attempted crime charges, the higher the likelihood of getting a favorable outcome.

Definition of Attempted Crimes Under California Laws

In the criminal justice system, an attempt is defined as the intent to perpetrate an offense and substantial acts done in an attempt to achieve it. The charge arises in circumstances when the crime was not accomplished, but there was proof of intent and actions leading up to it. According to California criminal law, these acts are defined as "ineffectual acts committed toward the completion [of the crime]." The reasons for not committing the crime could include several things, such as:

  • Crime could have simply failed, regardless of the best efforts of the criminal
  • The crime was successfully thwarted by a third entity, such as police officers or the victims
  • The criminal was forced to abandon the act despite the significant steps taken towards its completion

Without a "guilty deed," the defendant can be tried entirely on the grounds of their unlawful intent and also the effort they made to carry it out. Even though the penalties could be less harsh in some situations since the defendant did not commit the crime, others could receive the same level of punishment. This could be heavily influenced by the jury and judge, as well as the jurisdiction of the matter.

When Can a Person Be Charged With Attempted Crime?

You could be accused of attempting a crime when you have "put your plans into action," and executed the crime (without being successful). A crime can be considered incomplete when the defendant:

  • Abandons the commissioning of a crime after undertaking preparatory actions (for example, planning a burglary and buying a gun); or
  • Fails to accomplish the criminal act after making the necessary steps to perpetrate it (for example, being thwarted by a burglar alarm system)

To better comprehend when an individual may be criminally charged for an attempted crime, it is necessary to explain the steps of a crime. In general, the steps leading to an incomplete crime are as follows:

  • The criminal contemplates committing a crime, giving thought to the advantages and drawbacks before choosing to go ahead with the crime (at this stage, it's simply an idea)
  • The individual makes a conscious decision to perpetrate the crime (it's still an idea at this point)
  • The criminal gets ready to perpetrate the crime by enlisting the help of accomplices or acquiring supplies such as guns and disguises
  • The criminal begins the execution of the crime (for example, he or she will drive to the location where he or she intends on carrying out the crime)
  • However, for whatever reason, the intended crime is not accomplished

This is not a comprehensive list, and the steps can change based on the type of crime being committed.

What the Prosecutor Needs to Prove

To prosecute someone accused of an attempted crime, the prosecutor must show two things:

  • The defendant intended to execute a certain crime, and
  • The defendant made a direct effort toward the implementation of the crime

Proving Intent

With intent a fundamental element of prosecution, one might wonder how the prosecution will go about establishing something as conceptual and subjective as intent. Since a considerable amount of intent can be deduced from acts, there is often just a thin border between intention and action. For instance, if the defendant is caught on camera attempting to pick a lock on a property, this could be considered as intent on top of being unlawful behavior.

An attempt cannot be deduced from actions of carelessness or negligence since it is an offense of specific intent. The defendant can not be charged if there is no proof of specific intent. This occurs when acts are mistakenly perceived as having malicious intent, but the act was the result of a misunderstanding, ignorance, or oversight.

Proving Direct Step

This, according to the law, is defined as steps that involve more than simply an aforethought or planning to perpetrate a crime or acquiring or getting something necessary to perpetrate a criminal act. A direct step extends beyond any preparation or planning and demonstrates that an individual is following through with his or her scheme to commit the crime. A direct step, in other terms, clearly establishes a clear purpose for conducting the crime.

It has to be a certain form of undeviating act towards perpetrating the offense after making the needed preparations. It's important to remember that making plans or having conversations about committing a crime is not regarded as direct steps. The act must be a significant step toward the completion of the offense.

Direct steps have to show a clear purpose for conducting the offense and also be an instant action that initiates the plot to perpetrate the crime.

What is the Difference Between Attempted Crime and Conspiracy?

An attempted crime is different from a conspiracy or incitement to perpetrate an offense. Even though these charges are similar and comparable in certain ways, they are constitutionally different. According to California statutes, a conspiracy is defined as a contractual agreement among persons with the clear intent of committing an offense, and any individual implicated in the arrangement does an undisguised act in support of the arrangement but not the commission of the crime itself.

Both attempt and conspiracy are based on the presence of an undisguised or considerable act perpetrated to aid in the commissioning of the crime, even if it is done inadvertently.

While attempted criminal charges are normally brought against a person acting alone in pursuit of their own goal, a conspiracy allegation can be brought against 2 or more people who have conspired to perpetrate an offense after one of the perpetrators has taken the first step toward doing so. If the offense is successfully carried out, the accusation of conspiracy doesn't apply, and the people involved will be convicted of the offense rather than the conspiracy to carry it out.

Examples of Attempted Crimes

Below are some of the most prevalent attempted offenses in California:

  • Attempted murder, under California PC 187
  • Attempted robbery, under California PC 664 or 211
  • Attempted rape, under California PC 664 or 261
  • Attempted kidnapping, under California PC 664 or 207
  • Attempted theft, under California PC 664 or 484

It's worth noting that an attempt is punishable under Penal Code 664. The intended crime is not prosecuted under the Act. This implies that a charge of attempted murder would be prosecuted not under California PC 664, but Penal Code 187.

Legal Penalties for Attempted Crimes

According to California criminal law, when a defendant is charged with attempting to perpetrate a crime, he or she can be sentenced to prison for half the total penalty for the accomplished act. The defendant could also be fined nearly half the fines for the completed offense. Of course, this will differ depending on the offense committed. If the offense carries a standard sentence of a maximum of 2 years in state prison as well as fines of up to $5,000, a sentence for attempted crime might have a maximum sentence of one and a half years in state prison and a $2,500 fine.

Certain crimes, like murder or attempted murder, will have justifiably harsh consequences. In certain scenarios, attempted murder could still result in life in prison imprisonment. If the offense carries a possible term of life imprisonment or capital punishment, the maximum punishment in prison will be five, seven, or nine years.

If accused of attempting intentional, premeditated, and deliberate murder, or murdering peace officers, firefighters, or a custodial officer, they might face a life term in prison with no chance of parole. Otherwise, they will be sentenced to California state prison for fifteen years to life with no chance of parole till they have completed a minimum of fifteen years.

Legal Defenses for Criminal Attempt

If you've been charged with an attempted crime as per California PC 21a, your lawyer can employ a variety of techniques to defend you. It's important to remember that each attempted criminal charge will have its own set of conditions.

As a result, any defense strategy would necessitate a thorough examination of the facts. The following are among the most typical legal defenses to a charge of attempted crime:

There Was No Intent to Commit a Crime

If possible, your defense attorney will try to refute one or both of those claims. After talking with your lawyer, they will go into the details of your matter to determine if the argument of no clear intent can be made. You cannot be found guilty of an attempted crime if you do not have the intent to conduct the crime.

Even though the prosecutor refers to actions made with the stated goal of perpetrating the offense, your defense counsel could be able to establish that the action was unintentional, unintended, or conducted without knowing it was illegal.

The prosecutor cannot prosecute you for an offense committed accidentally, and this insight can be very helpful to people accused of attempted crimes, provided the facts support this claim. Even though the aspect of intent plays a big role in attempted criminal charges, it isn't enough to get a conviction. It could be an argument for the allegation if no actual and considerable measures were taken toward the commissioning of the crime.

Even though a person considers, discusses, and psychologically plots a theft but does not take any concrete actions toward conducting it, like buying a handgun or hiring a getaway car, the prosecutor could not be capable of convicting him or her strictly on the grounds of their ideas and intentions.

No Act in Advancement of the Attempted Crime

As we've already discussed above, one of the major components of the attempted crime would be that the prosecution must be capable of proving you intentionally planned to conduct the crime. This crucial factor can be difficult for prosecutors to prove since they must show proof that demonstrates the offender’s intent to commit the crime beyond a shadow of a doubt.

This defense strategy addresses the steps mentioned in the features of the offense above. The burden of proof lies with the prosecution to prove you conducted an act in the advancement of the crime.

Note that even considering committing the crime is insufficient to indict you. It is not illegal to have thoughts. It's not sufficient to prepare to commit an offense. You cannot be charged with attempted murder unless you take a clear step toward committing it. It must be a blatant act or a significant step toward the completion of the crime.

Desertion of the Attempted Crime

Abandonment is an acceptable defense to an allegation of attempted crime in which the accused demonstrates that:

  • Even though he or she may have planned to perpetrate an offense (and taken the steps to go on with it)
  • He or she withdrew or abandoned what he or she was doing

The defense contends that the defendant had a change of heart and no longer wanted to go on with his or her plan. It should be noted, however, that abandonment needs to be voluntary for the defense to be legitimate. An accused person cannot stop committing the crime because he or she is afraid of being caught.

Mistaken Identity

The most common cause of unwarranted conviction is mistaken identification. It has happened since:

  • You (your bodily appearance, clothing, vehicle, etc.) have a striking resemblance to the real perpetrator.
  • Someone wrongly suspects you of being responsible for a criminal crime or
  • Someone accuses you of being the perpetrator of a crime to avoid facing criminal charges

Lack of Probable Cause

Before detaining or arresting you, authorities must show probable cause under California's search and seizure laws. "Probable cause" basically indicates that, depending on the conditions, a rational and cautious police officer would assume that criminal conduct is or has been taking place.

If it looks like the authorities searched, held, or detained you without probable cause, the defense attorney could submit a motion to suppress. The attorney will urge the court to suppress any evidence collected through an illegal search and seizure during a "suppression motion" session under California PC 1538.5. Your charges will almost always be dropped if the request is granted.

Related Offenses

The following are crimes linked to attempting:

  • Penal Code 182: Conspiracy
  • Penal Code 653 (f) – solicitation
  • Penal Code 31 – aiding and abetting


As described earlier, California's PC 182 describes criminal conspiracy. This clause makes it illegal if:

  • Somebody concurs to conduct an offense with either one or more people, and
  • Either of the participants takes action to advance the agreement

The following are the primary distinctions between a conspiracy and attempting a crime:

  • Attempted crime charges do not necessitate the consent of an accomplice
  • An action that helps in the advancement of a conspiracy doesn't need to be as blatant as one that advances an attempt

In regards to the second point, planning is sufficient to advance a conspiracy. However, making preparations for an attempt isn't enough.


PC 653 (f) makes it illegal to encourage or persuade somebody to engage in criminal acts in California.

The accused is charged with solicitation, which, in contrast to the attempted crime charge, is not attempting to commit crimes. He or she is asking someone else to engage in crime.

Aiding and Abetting

Aiding and abetting happen when an individual, who is often not onsite at the time of the criminal act, contributes to the crime's execution through counsel, support, acts, inactions, or even financial assistance. This crime is also known as an "accessory or accomplice crime.

The prosecution must demonstrate that:

  • An offense was committed
  • The defendant assisted, advised, instructed, or influenced the individual in committing the act
  • The defendant acted intending to advance the commission of the offense
  • The defendant acted before the offense was committed

Find a Los Angeles Criminal Defense Attorney Near Me

If you have been charged with an attempted crime under California PC 21 (a), you should speak with the Los Angeles Criminal Lawyer. Our skilled attorneys will work with you to evaluate the details of your matter and devise a defense plan that can help you achieve the best possible results. Call us at 310-502-1314 today for a free consultation.