Penal Code 664 PC | Attempted Crimes

Penal Code 664 PC | Attempted Crimes

Attempted crimes are a big deal in California. Penal Code 664 PC is the law that defines attempt, and lays out how defendants get punished for trying but failing to commit a crime. Let’s break it down so you understand what’s an attempted crime, how it works, and what happens if your charged.

What is an Attempted Crime?

An attempted crime is when you intend to commit a crime, and take a direct step towards making it happen, but don’t fully go through with the criminal act for whatever reason. The key elements are intent to commit the crime, and then taking an overt act beyond just planning to do it.

For example, if you plan out a burglary, drive to the location, and get caught breaking in – you could be charged with attempted burglary under PC 664 even though you didn’t steal anything. Just going beyond planning shows you seriously meant to commit the crime.

How Does the Law Work?

California law says that any attempts to commit a crime is punishable, even if you don’t complete the criminal act. The punishment is the same as if you did complete the crime, but with a reduced sentence.

So if you attempt a felony in CA, you can get up to 3 years in county jail. If you attempt a misdemeanor, up to 6 months in county jail. Attempted crimes are a big deal!

Legal Definition

Specifically, Penal Code 664 PC 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.”

This means even if another law doesn’t specifically mention “attempt”, you can still be charged for attempting that crime under PC 664.

Elements of Attempted Crime

For you to be convicted under 664 PC, the prosecutor has to prove these elements:

  • You intended to commit the crime
  • You took a direct step towards committing the crime (an “overt act”)
  • You failed to complete the crime

Let’s break these down in more detail…

Intent to Commit the Crime

First, the prosecutor has to show you intended to commit the particular crime. They don’t necessarily need an outright confession from you. Intent can be proven from the circumstances and your actions.

For example, if you break into someone’s home wearing a mask and carrying burglary tools, it’s pretty clear you intended to commit burglary even if you say otherwise.

“Overt Act” Towards the Crime

Second, they have to prove you took a direct step towards completing the crime. This is called an “overt act” or “direct act”. It has to go beyond just thinking or planning the crime in your head – you need to take physical steps to put the plan in motion. Some examples of overt acts:

  • Driving to the location of a planned burglary
  • Bringing tools to break into a building
  • Buying supplies to make a bomb
  • Luring a victim to a location

The overt act itself doesn’t have to be criminal. But it does have to show you were putting your plan into action, not just thinking about it.

Failing to Complete the Crime

Finally, the prosecutor has to show you didn’t actually complete the intended crime. If you followed through all the way, it’s no longer an “attempt”. For example, if you break into a home and steal stuff, you can be charged with burglary – not attempted burglary.

Legal Defenses

Since attempt charges depend on showing your intent, the best defense is often challenging the evidence of intent. For example, if you have a good reason for being at a location or possessing certain items, it can cast doubt on whether you really intended to commit a crime.

Some other common defenses include:

  • You made no attempt – For example, maybe you only talked or thought about the crime but took no real steps beyond that.
  • You voluntarily stopped yourself – If you voluntarily abandon the plan without completing the crime, it shows you didn’t have the full criminal intent.
  • You were entrapped – This means law enforcement tricked or coerced you into attempting the crime.
  • Mistake of fact – For example, you tried to take property you mistakenly thought was yours.

An experienced criminal defense lawyer can help assess the evidence against you and decide the best defense strategy.

Punishment for Attempted Crimes

As mentioned above, attempted crimes are punished almost the same as if the crime was completed – just with slightly shorter jail sentences.

If the intended crime was a felony, an attempt conviction under PC 664 is punishable by:

  • 16 months, 2 years, or 3 years in county jail
  • Up to $10,000 in fines
  • Informal probation up to 5 years

And if the intended crime was a misdemeanor, an attempt conviction can bring:

  • Up to 6 months in county jail
  • Up to $1,000 in fines
  • Informal probation up to 3 years

Attempted murder under Penal Code 664/187 PC is more complicated…it can be charged as either a felony or misdemeanor. The potential sentence depends on exactly how the attempt played out.

As you can see, just attempting a crime comes with big consequences. So don’t assume you’re safe just because you got stopped before completing the criminal act.

Stay Out of Trouble…

Hopefully this gives you a better understanding of attempt charges under 664 PC. Lots of people mistakenly believe they can’t get in trouble for just attempting a crime. But this law proves otherwise – you face punishment either way in California.

The best way to avoid these charges is simply not to attempt illegal acts in the first place. But if you do find yourself accused, don’t take it lightly. Hire an attorney to start building your defense right away.

For more info checkout these PC 664 resources or read the code section yourself straight from the California legislature.