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Joseph Lyons

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 to the 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 the trigger, 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 assumes that 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 of others, or that the killing was an accident. They may also argue that a person had a lesser intent than that to commit murder, such as the intent necessary to commit manslaughter.  Under limited circumstances, a person may claim an insanity defense, saying they were not mentally capable for forming the required intent under the law while the action happened.

What is attempted murder?

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

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

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

A person must do some act to be guilty of attempted murder, to prove conduct has gone beyond “mere preparation” to a full-fledged attempt. There is often a fine line between preparation and an act. Iowa follows a rule called the “slight acts”approach. This approach lists the elements of an attempt as intent to commit the crime (of murder); and an act (even a “slight” act) in furtherance of a crime. This action shows a person is unlikely to “turn back” before committing the 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 pain or injury to a person. An assault can also be an act which is intended to result in insulting or offensive physical contact, coupled with the apparent ability to commit the act. An assault could also be any act intended to place another in fear of physical or offensive contact, coupled with the apparent ability to do the act. An assault is also any intentionally pointing of a firearm toward another, any other weapon in a threatening way.

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

Disclaimer: The information provided on this blog is intended for general informational purposes only and should not be construed as legal advice on any subject matter. This information is not intended to create, and receipt or viewing does not constitute an attorney-client relationship. Each individual's legal needs are unique, and these materials may not be applicable to your legal situation. Always seek the advice of a competent attorney with any questions you may have regarding a legal issue. Do not disregard professional legal advice or delay in seeking it because of something you have read on this blog.


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