To prove that a person is guilty of attempted murder, the prosecution must prove that:
- The person took at least one direct but ineffective step toward killing another person; AND
- The defendant intended to kill that person.
A direct step requires more than merely planning or preparing to commit murder or obtaining or arranging for something needed to commit murder. A direct step is one that goes beyond planning or preparation and shows that a person is putting his or her plan into action. A direct step indicates a definite and unambiguous intent to kill. It is a direct movement toward the commission of the crime after preparations are made. It is an immediate step that puts the plan in motion so that the plan would have been completed if some circumstance outside the plan had not interrupted the attempt.
A person who attempts to commit murder is guilty of attempted murder even if, after taking a direct step toward killing, he or she abandons further efforts to complete the crime, or his or her attempt fails or is interrupted by someone or something beyond his or her control. On the other hand, if a person freely and voluntarily abandons his or her plans before taking a direct step toward committing the murder, then that person is not guilty of attempted murder.
Attempted murder with premeditation is punishable by life with the possibility of parole. A person must serve at least seven years in state prison before he or she is eligible for parole. Attempted murder without premeditation is punishable by up to 5, 7, or 9 years in state prison.