Penal Code 189 covers Conspiracy to Commit Murder in California, a crime that can carry harsh penalties that are reminiscent of committing the murder itself. This counts for all murder that is committed with the intention of using a destructive device of explosive, weapon of mass destruction, knowing use of ammunition designed to pierce armor, poison, lying in wait, torture, or any other sort of premeditated killing.
Conspiracy to commit murder is a bit different because of the simple fact that the intentions have not been carried out to completion. You obviously understand that a murder means that somebody took the time to plan the murder and completed it in full. However, conspiracy is a bit different. Here are the steps involved in committing murder:
- The actor gets the idea to kill the victim
- The actor evaluates the idea, deciding whether to proceed
- The actor decides to go forward with the idea
- The actor prepares for the crime, by obtaining necessary weapons
- The actor begins the crime
- The actor finishes the crime
Now: You cannot be punished for the first three steps. Many people may sit and get an idea to kill somebody but never act on it. However, when you start to prepare for the crime, this is when you can be charged with an incomplete crime. In most cases, the defendant will set out to complete the rest of these steps but fail to do so (i.e. in a case where the defendant buys a gun, shoots the victim, but misses.) In other cases, the defendant may be prevented from succeeding in the crime because of a change in circumstances (i.e. the victim didn’t show up where they were needed on the night of the expected murder.)
Murder is seen as “specific intent,” which describes the defendant’s state of mind when they set out to achieve the crime at hand. Murder is seen as specific intent because it requires the prosecutor to show that the defendant actually intended to murder the victim and nothing short of such. This can be shown in comparison to battery intent, which is when prosecution only needs to prove that the defendant intentionally hit the victim.
In many cases, a defendant will be punished extensively for their attempt to commit a crime. In most cases, a felony (which Conspiracy to Commit Murder would be in this case) would carry a sentence of half the maximum allowed for the target crime. This means if the target crime would have landed you life in prison, you may just serve a sentence of a few years.
If you did not actually conspire to commit murder, you will want your defense attorney to prove this in court. Perhaps you did not intend to ever cause the act, never conspired or agreed to follow through with it with another person, or perhaps you were only acting in self-defense. These are all viable reasons to speak to a defense attorney and get started on your case today.