The doctrine of transferred intent applies when the defendant intends to harm a particular victim but as a result an unintended second victim receives that harm. I understand that attempted crimes can’t be transferred (e.g., if you attempt to kill Carlo by shooting at him but miss and hit Adam, and Adam survives, you cannot be charged with the attempted murders of both Carlo and Adam).

But what if Adam dies? Doctrine of transferred intent applies to hold you liable for the murder of Adam. Could you also be held liable for the attempted murder of Carlo? I don’t see any double jeopardy issues but im not sure.

Full disclosure: this scenario is based on a Netflix show im currently binging. The defendant Eugene is not being charged with Carlo’s attempted murder, only for Adam’s murder. Was just wondering if theres a legal reason why that can’t happen, or if it was prosecutorial discretion to not charge it, or if it was just an oversight of the show.

  • Personally I think if someone thinks so little of other people’s lives that they kill them without even intending to, that should have a much higher penalty. I can protect myself from jealous husbands by not sleeping with their wives. But I can’t protect myself from someone who goes on a rampage because someone slept with their wife and doesn’t care who he kills.
    – gnasher729
    Commented Jun 26 at 15:44

2 Answers 2


This would still be an attempted murder of Carlo. See R. v. Gordon, 2009 ONCA 170, para. 76:

in crimes of attempt, it is not necessary to make a whole crime out of two halves by joining the intent in relation to one victim with the harm caused to another, the purpose that underlies the principle. When the unintended victim suffers no harm, the accused has already committed an inchoate crime in relation to the intended victim, a crime of the same level of gravity as if the intent were to be transferred under the doctrine. Leaving aside principles of concurrent intent, the accused may also be punished in connection with the unintended victim according to his moral culpability and the injury he or she has caused.

That passage is saying that no matter what offence might end up being completed against the unintended victim, the accused will have completed an attempt against the intended victim.

  • 2
    Okay great that’s what I thought, thank you for giving the legal authority. I’m guessing this Netflix show made an oversight then because I see no reason why they wouldn’t charge Eugene with Carlo’s attempted murder. 🤷🏼‍♂️ Commented Jun 25 at 4:18

Likely Prosecutorial Discretion

Intent, as they say, follows the bullet. Anything the bullet did, from attempting to hit Carlo to actually hitting Adam, had the intent to murder, no matter what it ended up actually doing.

A prosecutor could decide to not prosecute for the attempted murder of Carlo for any number of reasons; perhaps Carlo is an unsympathetic victim and the prosecution fears that the jury would want to shoot Carlo as well, maybe there are evidentiary issues, maybe murder would come with a mandatory life sentence anyway so trying to prosecute both crimes at once would result in no sentence change but a more complicated case.


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