Attempted first degree murder
Attempted first degree murder is a substantial step, beyond mere preparation, toward the commission of murder in the first degree. In order to convict the defendant of attempted murder in the first degree, the State must prove:
- that the defendant took a substantial step, beyond mere preparation, toward the commission of murder in the first degree;
- that the defendant had the apparent ability, at that time, to commit the crime of murder in the first degree; and
- that the defendant willfully, and with premeditation and deliberation, intended to kill (name).
Willful means that the defendant actually intended to kill (name). Deliberate means that the defendant was conscious of the intent to kill. Premeditated means that the defendant thought about the killing and that there was enough time, though it may only have been brief, for the defendant to consider the decision whether or not to kill and enough time to weigh the reasons for and against the choice.
Attempted second degree murder
Attempted second degree murder is a substantial step, beyond mere preparation, toward the commission of murder in the second degree. Second degree murder does not require premeditation or deliberation. In order to convict the defendant of attempted murder in the second degree, the State must prove:
- that the defendant took a substantial step, beyond mere preparation, toward the commission of murder in the second degree;
- that the defendant had the apparent ability, at that time, to commit the crime of murder in the second degree; and
- that the defendant actually intended to kill (name).
What is considered a “substantial step” towards attempted murder?
While intent to kill another person must be proven, a prosecutor must also prove that the defendant took a “substantial step” towards committing a murder. The definition of this term is vague, and is determined on a case-to-case basis. In a general sense, the term “substantial step” refers to an individual taking a direct action towards attempting to kill another person.
For example, this means the defendant had to have taken an action like using a weapon against the victim, not just buying a weapon and making threats. If an individual has taken a substantial step, the prosecution has a case and can move forward with the trial.
Attempted murder defenses
If you are facing attempted murder charges, you’ll want to build a strong defense. Keep in mind, if you do not practice the law yourself, you will most likely need the help of a qualified criminal defense attorney to help prepare your defense. Here are the most common defenses when an individual is facing attempted murder charges:
- Self-defense: This defense claims that the defendant acted with the appropriate use of force to protect themselves.
- No intent to kill: This defense claims that there was never an intent to kill the victim.
- Incomplete attempt: This defense claims that the defendant did not take the steps required to try to murder the victim.
- Under the influence of drugs or alcohol: This defense claims that the defendant was not in the right state of mind to understand their actions.
Potential penalties for attempted murder
Attempted murder penalties vary depending on the degree of the charge. The sentence can also differ depending on whether the defendant is a repeat offender, and other factors. Here are the maximum penalties for attempted murder:
- First degree attempted murder: First degree attempted murder is punishable by a sentence of up to life in prison. If a prosecutor is seeking this penalty, the defendant must be informed at least 30 days prior to the trial.
- Second degree attempted murder: Second degree murder is punishable by up to 30 years in prison.
A criminal defense lawyer should be contacted if you are facing any degree of attempted murder charge. A qualified attorney can examine the details of your case, and determine the right defense for your charge. This can result in a reduced sentence, and can even result in the charges being dropped.
If you face one or more of these charges it is crucial to contact a criminal defense lawyer as soon as possible in order to protect your rights.
Source: Maryland Criminal Pattern Jury Instructions; MPJI-Cr 4:17.13