What are Attempted Crimes in California


We’ve all heard stories about people who are charged with attempted crimes such as attempted murder, attempted assault, or attempted burglary. While we’re familiar with the concept of attempted crimes, few of us fully understand how it’s possible to be charged and even convicted, of a crime that didn’t actually happen.

The issue of attempted crimes in California is discussed in Penal Code 664 PC. The law defines attempted crimes as any instance when a person makes a concentrated effort to pull off an actual crime and break the law. The fact that the intent was real, even if the person failed to completely follow through in their attempt to break the law.

The law specifically states that “every person who attempts to commit any crime, but fails, or is prevented or intercepted in its perpetration, shall be punished where no provision is made by law for the punishment of those attempts.”

There are several examples of attempted crimes. These examples include:

  • A victim escaping and fleeing from a sexual assault scenario
  • Breaking into a house, but is stopped before anything is actually stolen
  • A gun backfiring during what would have been a murder

The interesting thing about the way California handles attempted crimes is how the sentencing is handled. The rule of thumb for attempted crimes in California is that the maximum sentence for a guilty conviction will be one-half of the maximum sentence had the accused been able to complete their crime.

Composing a successful attempt for attempted crimes in California generally depends on how much evidence the police have gathered, the type of attempted crime the accused is facing, and how close they came to committing the crime. Some successful defenses that have been used in the past include:

  • That while the accused may have considered the crime, there is no evidence that they would actually carry through with it
  • The accused was framed
  • The accused didn’t realize that they were about to break the law

Whether the attempted crime is handled as a misdemeanor or a felony depends on how the charges would have been handled had the law actually been broken. This means that there are both misdemeanor and felony attempted crime cases going through the California legal system all the time.

While some maintain that it’s unreasonable to charge and convict people of attempted crimes in California, there is little chance that things will change any time soon. California lawmakers hope that by continuing to pursue attempted crime cases they will:

  • Discourage people from breaking the law
  • That people realize that there are consequences for actions, even if the actions aren’t fully carried through

The best way to make sure you’re never charged with an attempted crime in California is by never even planning a hypothetical crime.