What does an Attempted Murder Charge mean in SC?

by | Mar 31, 2016 | Criminal Defense |

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We’ve all seen television crime dramas where someone is charged with attempted murder. You may even have a favorite white knight of a defense attorney who you’ve seen take down prosecutors in one fatal swoop.

Unfortunately, the South Carolina legal system is almost nothing like you have seen on the small screen. If you are facing attempted murder charges in South Carolina, your experience most likely will not be like a TV show. Those crime dramas you have seen may have misled you.

The truth is, you need to understand what you’re up against. Even more so, you need the support of an experienced attorney right away–one who can advise you and fight for your rights every step of the way.

So what does an attempted murder charge in SC mean for you? Here’s what you need to know:

What is attempted murder?

According to South Carolina law attempted murder occurs when: “A person who, with intent to kill, attempts to kill another person with malice aforethought, either expressed or implied, commits the offense of attempted murder.”

To help you understand this better, let’s break down the three key elements of this definition — intent to kill, attempt to kill, and express/implied malice aforethought:

  • 1. “Intent to kill” — You wanted to kill another person.
  • 2. “Attempt to kill” — You actually tried to kill that person. This goes beyond assaulting someone. You weren’t just trying to beat up the person. You meant for this person to die as a result of your actions.
  • 3. “With malice aforethought, either expressed or implied” — Malice means you had ill will toward the other person–so much that you wanted to kill him or her. This desire to kill was present before the act. Essentially, the act was premeditated. When malice aforethought is “expressed,” the accused says or writes down the ill intent. When malice aforethought is “implied,” the accused’s actions show the intent. Malice aforethought does not apply to “a crime of passion” or “temporary insanity.”

As you can see, the legal definition is compact, but it’s dense with legalese.

Penalty for attempted murder

The penalty for attempted murder is much more straightforward than its legal definition. If convicted, a judge can sentence the guilty person to up to 30 years in jail. And unfortunately, there is no exception to this penalty. The judge cannot order the guilty person to pay a fine or complete probation instead of serving jail time.

If you’re in this situation, however, there are ways you and your attorney can help defend you against what the police and prosecution say you did.

Defenses to an attempted murder charge

If it’s clear you and the victim had some sort of interaction that may have led to this person’s death, there are a few defenses — which attorneys call “affirmative defenses” — that can work against an attempted murder charge:

  • It wasn’t your intent to kill the victim. You meant to cause some other type of harm, but not death. Using this defense means you’re almost certainly pleading guilty to a lesser charge, most likely one of the assault charges under SC law.
  • Your actions had no premeditation. Events happened, and you reacted as best you could. Unfortunate results happened, but you did not intend them to happen.
  • You acted in self defense. You were threatened, and you responded to the threat in a reasonable manner. You feared for your safety, and you responded to protect your life or the lives of those around you.

Your attorney can review the facts of your case to see if one of these defenses or another affirmative defense is appropriate in your case. Your attorney can also answer any questions you have about applying the law to your case.

Common Questions About Attempted Murder in SC

If you’re facing attempted murder charges in South Carolina, we’re guessing you have many questions swimming around in your head. Here are answers to the most common questions our clients ask us about their attempted murder charges in SC.

Will I go to to jail if convicted of attempted murder?

Absolutely. South Carolina law plainly states that anyone convicted of attempted murder is sentenced to up to 30 years in jail. The judge has discretion on exactly how long the sentence will be; however, a jail sentence is the only punishment option available.

Can I receive a probationary sentence for attempted murder if it was my first criminal offense?

No. Regardless of whether or not this is your first offense, probation is not a possibility.

What is the definition of attempted murder?

Simply stated, attempted murder is when a person plans to kill someone and acts on that plan but does not succeed in killing the victim. All three parts of this charge must be met — the premeditated intention to kill, the attempt to kill and the failure to kill.

Will an attempted murder charge show up on my record? What about a conviction?

Most definitely. Criminal charges and convictions show up on your criminal record. This is why you need an experienced attorney. If you’re not convicted, an attorney may be able to help you get the charge expunged from your record.

What are the elements of attempted murder?

Three key elements of the legal definition for attempted murder must be met in order for the prosecution to secure a conviction. First, the accused must have the intent to kill the victim before acting on this intent, which is called “malice aforethought.” Second, the accused must actually try to kill the victim. And third, the victim must not die from the attempt to kill.

Can I beat an attempted murder charge?

It’s possible to beat an attempted murder charge. However, it depends on the facts of your case.

Police officers sometimes make mistakes in the collection and handling of evidence, so you attorney might be able to get some evidence against you thrown out.

And if you didn’t do it, you stand a good chance of winning at trial. But no matter what, there are no guarantees when it comes to a criminal trial.

Get the help you need

Hiring an experienced murder defense attorney to help you through the criminal process is absolutely essential to defending yourself against an attempted murder charge in SC. To discuss your case with the attorneys at Coastal Law, use this form, or Dial (843) 488-5000.

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