When someone is killed, the prosecution must decide on the charge they will pursue against the defendant and this will depend on the context of the crime. There are varying degrees of murder or manslaughter, but the law also accounts for when the defendant attempts to kill someone. Specifically, attempted murder has been delineated by California Penal Code 664/187 PC and deals with direct steps in to kill someone while ultimately not being able to fully carry out the plan.
For the prosecution, to argue that the defendant is guilty of attempted murder, they must prove that the defendant had the intention to kill the victim. If no intent existed, the charges might completely change. Furthermore, not only must the defendant have the intent, but they must have also taken a direct step in an attempt to kill the victim. A direct step is defined as implementing a plan and fully acting. Therefore, it is not just the preparation of murder as the defendant must have then moved beyond the planning stage. Ultimately, though, the victim must not have been killed by the direct act(s). The attempted murder charge can apply if the defendant took multiple steps in trying to kill the victim, but failed, or even if the defendant took at least one direct act to murder but then did not move further in a way that would have ensured the killing. The charge will also come into play if the attempted killing was directed towards a fetus.
Similar to other murder convictions, attempted murder is split into first and second-degree. First-degree means that the murder that would have been committed was deliberate and premeditated. For this charge, the defendant faces a life sentence with possibility of parole. Second-degree, on the other hand, refers to a murder that was not premeditated and, as such, has a less severe punishment of up to nine years in a California state prison.