Assault and Attempted Murder

Bar fights, arguments, fights over women, road rage, and a variety of other incidents fall into the general category of crimes of violence. Typically in these assault cases the alleged perpetrator is known. The focus frequently becomes what happened and why did it happen? Because of California‚Äôs strike laws and society’s general intolerance for violence, the consequences of a conviction can be very serious. This is even truer if the injuries to the alleged victim are significant.

Many times assault cases are charged as attempted murder in San Diego, Riverside, or in Southern California. This is usually an assault with a more serious deadly weapon such as a knife or firearm. A lot of times attempted murder is charged to provide plea bargain leverage to the prosecution. Because of the consequences of attempted murder, the defendant is more likely to accept a plea to assault with a deadly weapon.

Proving the intent to kill, however, can be very difficult for the prosecutor. Just because one person shoots or stabs another doesn’t mean the intent was to cause death. Defeating the intent to kill element is sometimes easy. Other times it requires expert analysis. Your lawyer may have to retain a pathologist to show that the location, angle, and other circumstances of the injury are less consistent with the intent to kill than with an accident or the intent to wound.

Felony assault cases are usually charged as Assault with a Deadly Weapon or Assault with the Intent to Cause Great Bodily Injury. Many times these are also overcharged and a wrongful death attorney can help in these cases. The D.A. uses them as leverage to get a plea bargain for concessions in sentencing.

A large percentage of these cases plea bargain because the identity is clear and the circumstances aren’t strong enough for self defense. In these cases negotiation and sentencing preparation become the keys. Even if you can’t risk trial, you want to show the defendant’s actions weren’t as bad as the prosecutor thinks. Any evidence showing that the alleged victim has a record of violence or an aggressive personality will help. It may not clear you completely, but it will humanize you and will help mitigate your actions.

If possible, it is important to show that the defendant was acting out of character when the incident happened. Everyone can understand someone acting out violently under the influence of alcohol or in quick-developing events under stress. A good psychological evaluation will help demonstrate that the defendant’s acts were out of character and mitigated. Demonstrating remorse can also be important. If the D.A. and the Court see that you are terribly remorseful for your actions they will go easier on you, both in what you pled to and to what you get for punishment at sentencing.

Taking an assault case to trial often ends up being a contest of credibility between the defendant’s version and the accuser’s version. Your skilled criminal defense lawyer will need to focus on the accuser’s story and use all efforts to show that it is inconsistent with the truth. Many times this requires a combination of the words of witnesses and expert testimony based on body marks and other physical findings. Be prepared to decide to take the stand. It will be difficult for a jury to know what you were thinking without hearing it from your mouth. Taking the stand is a major decision, however, and shouldn’t be considered without the sound advice of your lawyer.

Don’t be depressed if some of the eyewitnesses are against you. If they weren’t involved, they typically form an impression of who is at fault without knowing the whole story. Also, they are surprised when a fight happens and they may misunderstand what they think they saw. A good expert on eyewitness testimony can explain to a jury how eyewitnesses frequently get it wrong. Despite what people think, the eye is not a camera. People frequently get very important facts wrong that happen right before their eyes. Don’t risk your life and wait another second if you have been charged with attempted murder or assault. You need an experienced criminal defense attorney representing your rights.

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