Attempted murder is a serious criminal offense that can result in substantial prison time. To understand what is involved if someone is facing such a charge, it is necessary to know what is meant by "attempted." Under Washington State law, a chargeable attempt is any act that is a substantial step toward the commission of a crime that a person intended to commit. Determining whether a substantial step was taken is not as simple as it may seem. In one highly publicized case, a stepfather called a mental-health crisis line to report he had found entries in his stepson's journal that included threats against named individuals. Police responded and arrested the stepson, who was charged with attempted murder. He eventually pleaded not guilty by reason of insanity, but by then he had been in jail for more than a year.
The case illustrates how a written statement of intent, however abstract, might serve as a "substantial step." This is especially true of postings in internet forums and chat rooms, which are often under surveillance for possible indications of planned terrorist acts. But while a journal scribbling or internet rant may lead law enforcement to intercept the individual, it does not necessarily constitute a substantial step in the commission of a crime. A substantial step must be more than mere contemplation. It must be strongly corroborative of the actor's intent to kill another person, which if uninterrupted would result in the person's death.
An example is acquiring weapons or materials that could be used to create a lethal device. The act must move the person toward the completion of the crime, even one that is never actually executed. Simply considering a possible plan for murder and even discussing it with a confidante is not enough. Also, someone cannot be charged with attempt for a homicide committed by accident, negligence or recklessness, since there was no intent.
If you are facing attempted murder charges, a knowledgeable criminal defense lawyer can help. At Peale Law Firm in Seattle, Washington, we have been defending clients accused of major crimes for more than 40 years. Call us at (206) 429-4777 or contact us online for a free consultation.