Skip to content
Name: People v. Pham
Case #: C063758
Court: CA Court of Appeal
District 3 DCA
Opinion Date: 02/07/2011

An attempt to commit a crime is a crime even if it would have been impossible to complete its commission. Appellant, planning to kill two African-American teenagers he believed damaged his mother’s car, shot into a crowd and injured two people. Appellant was not aware that his intended targets were not in the crowd. He was convicted of, inter alia, attempted murder. On appeal, appellant contended that there was insufficient evidence to convict him of attempted murder under a transferred intent theory. In his view, because there was no evidence that he intended to kill anyone actually in the crowd, his intent to kill the ones not present cannot be transferred to the ones who were injured. The People countered that the attempted murder convictions were not based on transferred intent, but instead were based on concurrent intent; i.e., the kill zone theory discussed in People v. Bland (2002) 28 Cal.4th 313. The appellate court deemed both arguments incorrect. A basic concept of criminal law holds that if a person has the intent to commit a crime and does some act toward its accomplishment, which in the normal course of events will result in the commission of the crime, the attempt to commit the crime is complete. Even if the intended crime could not have been completed due to some extrinsic fact unknown to the person who intended it, the person is guilty of attempt. Actual impossibility is not a defense to the charge of attempt. Here, appellant intended to kill the two teenagers he believed were in the group and cannot escape liability for his attempt merely because his targets were not where he thought they would be.