Trying to commit a crime but failing to complete it is a crime in California. Penal Code § 664 PC is the statute that makes it a criminal offense to attempt to commit a crime in California. The law states “[E]very person who attempts to commit any crime, but fails, or is prevented or intercepted in its perpetration, shall be punished. . .”

In California, attempt crimes generally use the PC section number for the crime of attempt, § 664, followed by the specific PC section number for the crime attempted also known as the target crime. For example, the criminal code section for murder is § 187(a). This results in §§ 664/187(a) as the referenced PC section numbers for attempted murder.

Attempt crimes may be classified as either misdemeanors or felonies based on the type of crime that the defendant was attempting to commit. This is also true for the classification of a crime as a three-strike crime or a non-three-strike crime.

If the crime attempted is punishable by imprisonment in the state prison, the person guilty of the attempt will receive punishment by imprisonment in state prison or county jail, respectively, for one-half the term of imprisonment prescribed upon a conviction of the offense attempted.

However, if the crime attempted is willful, deliberate, and premeditated murder, the person guilty of the attempt will be punished by imprisonment in the state prison for life with the possibility of parole. If the crime attempted is any other one in which the maximum sentence is life imprisonment or death, the person guilty of the attempt will receive a sentence of five, seven, or nine years in a California prison. Any willful, deliberate, or premeditated attempt to murder a peace officer or firefighter will result in a sentence of 15 years in prison.

For the prosecution to prove that the defendant is guilty of an attempted crime, it must prove that the defendant performed a direct action towards the commission of the target crime, in tandem with the specific intent to complete the target crime. For an act to constitute a direct act towards the commission of the target crime, the defendant must do something that is an actual step towards committing the crime. Thinking about, planning, or preparing to commit a crime are insufficient actions. A “direct step” means more than merely obtaining something necessary to commit the crime and more than preparing or planning to carry it out.

The Dolan Law Offices can answer your questions and provide valuable advice and service if you have been charged with attempting a crime. John Patrick Dolan has forty years of criminal defense and post-conviction experience. Contact Dolan Law Offices today at 760-775-3739 or 562-824-4007 to discuss your situation or find out more online here.

Attempted Crimes: How Are They Charged In California?