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Iowa Attempted Murder

Updated on
March 11, 2021
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Attempted murder is a Class B Felony. As such, it could land someone up to 25 years in prison, 70% of that time which is mandatory (meaning they will not be let out early on parole). This article will discuss:

  • What is murder in Iowa?
  • What is attempted murder?
  • What does someone need to do to be guilty of attempted murder?

What is murder in Iowa?

To define attempted murder, we first need to define murder.

Most crimes require the prosecutor to show two things: a specific action and a defendant’s specific state of mind at the time of the action.

In a murder, the action is the killing of another person. Usually there is not much dispute about whether a person has died. A prosecutor will put forward evidence on behalf of the state that the defendant intentionally caused the victim’s death. The defense attorney may argue they did not cause the death. Common defenses could include alibis(“I was somewhere else when the murder took place”), the person was unable to commit the murder for another reason, and mistaken identity.

The Defendant’s state of mind is often more difficult for the prosecutor to prove. The state of mind necessary at the time of the murder is described in the law as “malice aforethought.”This means a person must intend to do physical harm to another person, with the intent formed prior to committing the act, and continued during the act.

So, if someone decided they wanted to kill someone else by shooting them, they must want to cause physical harm tothe person before and while pulling the trigger. On the other hand, if the person was startled, and didn’t have time to think before or while pulling thetrigger, the state may not be able to show that this malicious state of mind existed. However, if a deadly weapon, like a gun, was used, the law assumesthat the defendant meant to commit the deadly action.

Common defenses involving the intent element are that the killing was in self-defense, done in the defense ofothers, or that the killing was an accident. They may also argue that a personhad a lesser intent than that to commit murder, such as the intent necessary tocommit manslaughter.  Under limitedcircumstances, a person may claim an insanity defense, saying they were notmentally capable for forming the required intent under the law while the actionhappened.

What is attempted murder?

Attemptedmurder requires the person to do an act a person expects will result insomeone’s death, or set in action a chain of events which will they expect to resultin someone else’s death. The state of mind element is the intent to cause anotherperson’s death. However, the person does not succeed in killing the intendedvictim.

Oneimportant aspect of this law is that it does not matter whether the act couldhave actually caused a person’s death. What matters if a person believed theact would cause their death. For instance, if someone fired a gun at a windowhe believed someone was behind, with the intent to kill them, but that personwas not actually were not behind the window, he would have committed attemptedmurder. It doesn’t matter that the would-be victim was never actually in harm’sway, as long as the Defendant thought the person was actually behind thewindow.

What does someone need to do to be guilty of attempted murder?

A personmust do some act to be guilty of attempted murder, to prove conduct has gonebeyond “mere preparation” to a full-fledged attempt. There is often a fine linebetween preparation and an act. Iowa follows a rule called the “slight acts”approach. This approach lists the elements of an attempt as intent to committhe crime (of murder); and an act (even a “slight” act) in furtherance of acrime. This action shows a person is unlikely to “turn back” before committingthe crime.

The IowaSupreme Court has said attempted murder requires an assault to take place. InIowa, assault is an act, without justification, which is intended to cause painor injury to a person. An assault can also be an act which is intended toresult in insulting or offensive physical contact, coupled with the apparentability to commit the act. An assault could also be any act intended to placeanother in fear of physical or offensive contact, coupled with the apparentability to do the act. An assault is also any intentionally pointing of afirearm toward another, any other weapon in a threatening way.

There havebeen cases where a person was acquitted because the act they made was not anassault under the law. A defense attorney representing an attempted murderdefendant may argue that an assault never took place, and therefore theDefendant had not committed an appropriate act evidencing attempted murder. Theymay also claim the person never intended to commit a murder. The crimes above, includingself-defense, done in the defense of others, or the action was an accident, arealso available, as well as insanity.

Iowa Attempted Murder
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