Under common law, it is a crime to commit a misdemeanor or felony, such as trying to steal something or cheating at gambling.
To be found guilty of committing a crime, you must be found that you made an effort to perform the crime and that you took a “substantial step” beyond mere preparation. An attempt is a form of an inchoate offense or an inchoate crime.
Is Criminal Conspiracy the Same as Asking Someone to Commit a Crime?
Solicitation is the crime of asking someone to perpetrate a crime on your behalf. The individual asking is typically not participating in the underlying crime at all.
With conspiracy, all of the people who participate in the conspiracy are committed to committing the underlying crime.
What Kind of Punishment Will I Face If the Underlying Crime Is a Felony?
If the underlying crime for the conspiracy is a felony, then the defendant may face two potential kinds of punishments.
If the potential punishments for the underlying felony do not include life imprisonment or death, then the defendant may face:
- One year in prison to one-half of the maximum time in prison that a person would face if they were convicted of the underlying felony
- One-half of the maximum fine the individual would have faced if they were convicted of committing the underlying felony
- Both a fine and prison time
The penalty a person faces for conspiring to commit a felony crime involving the death penalty is one to 10 years in prison.
Can I Be Convicted of Attempting a Crime?
Yes. You can even be convicted for asking someone else or helping someone else commit a crime. Just having the intent or mental state of attempting the crime would be acceptable to be guilty of the crime if a substantial step was taken in committing the intended crime.
To be charged with an attempted crime, you must:
- Have a specific intent to commit a criminal act.
- Commit a direct action or a substantial step toward completing the particular act with the specific intent that the act is completed.
What Is an Incomplete Crime?
Inchoate crimes, also called incomplete or attempt crimes, are acts that involve the intent to commit a specific criminal offense. Inchoate crimes are separate and distinct crimes because courts want to stop grave crimes from actually taking place.
Generally, a person cannot be convicted for an incomplete crime and the actual crime. For instance, a person cannot be convicted of attempted murder and murder. There is, however, an exception to the crime of conspiracy. A person could be charged with conspiracy to commit a specific crime and the actual crime if the crime was completed.
To be convicted of an inchoate crime, the prosecutor must establish beyond a reasonable doubt that you had the specific intent to commit the actual crime.
What Are Some Incomplete Crimes?
The major inchoate or incomplete crimes are:
A conspiracy is an agreement between two or more people to commit a crime with the specific intent of two or more people to accomplish the criminal objective, such as a conspiracy to sell drugs or rob a bank. The majority of states now require an overt act following the agreement.
For instance, mere preparation to commit the crime will be a sufficient overt act. In addition, at least two people must have a contract to commit the crime and have the intent to commit the crime- if one individual made a “fake agreement”- no conspiracy since it lacks multiple guilty minds.
The crime of solicitation consists of inciting, counseling, advising, urging, or commanding another to commit a crime with the intent that the individual commits the crime. One would be charged with solicitation even if the individual solicited has no intent to commit the crime or does not even commit the crime. Yet, if the solicited crime is committed, both parties would be liable for the crime.
An attempt is an act done with the intent to commit a crime but falls short of conducting the crime. To be guilty of an attempt, the defendant must intend to perpetrate the crime and take a substantial step in conducting the planned crime. Generally, the defendant must be dangerously close to completing the crime. If there was no specific intent to commit the crime, you could not be charged with an “attempt.”
What Are the Possible Defenses of Criminal Attempt?
There are several defenses for incomplete crimes:
- No Specific Intent: If you didn’t have the specific intent to perpetrate the crime, then you cannot be found guilty. Specific intent is required for an incomplete crime because otherwise, your act would have been accidental or innocent.
- Mere Preparation: Even if you had the specific intent to commit the crime, you would not be guilty of attempting the crime if you did not take a “substantial step” beyond mere preparation of the scheme. What qualifies as a substantial step will depend on the state statutory law.
- Voluntary Intoxication: Voluntary intoxication is not a complete defense, but it can be used to negate certain specific intent crimes such as attempts. You can still be guilty of another lesser offense that did not need specific intent.
- Legal Impossibility: Legal impossibility is where a person plans to commit an act believed to be a criminal offense but is not criminal.
What Are the Penalties for Incomplete Crimes?
The kind of crime solicited and the type of conspiracy you are convicted of will determine the punishment of the crime. The more weighty the crime solicited, attempted, or agreed to commit, the heftier the sentence and punishment.
The penalties you face for participating in a conspiracy will often be based on the penalties that are implemented concerning the underlying offense.
In addition, members of a conspiracy are criminally responsible for all crimes committed to further the conspiracy.
What About Factual Impossibility?
If a person cannot possibly commit a crime due to facts they do not understand, they can still be guilty of the crime if they had the criminal intent. For instance, you can still be guilty of buying cocaine, even if what you buy is powdered sugar.
What Are the Possible Penalties for Criminal Attempts?
The punishments for inchoate or attempted crimes vary widely depending on the attempted crime type.
The ranges of punishments for attempted crimes are as follows:
- Attempted murder is a serious charge and has strict legal penalties. If convicted of attempted murder, there is a possibility that you can face life in prison.
- Attempting to commit a crime with a maximum sentence of life imprisonment is punishable by imprisonment in state prison for 5-10 years.
- Attempting to commit a criminal act with a maximum penalty less than life imprisonment can result in imprisonment in state prison for one-half of the prison term for the full crime.
- An attempt to commit a crime for which the punishment is a fine can be punished by a fine of no more than one-half the largest fine for the complete crime.
Do I Need a Criminal Defense Lawyer?
If you have been charged with a criminal attempt crime, you must contact a criminal defense lawyer as soon as possible. An experienced attorney can help prepare the case and determine possible defenses. Criminal laws can be very different from state to state, so be sure to ask a lawyer if you have questions about the rules in your area.