The 3 Elements of Criminal Attempt, and How They Can Apply to You

Many people have a hard time understanding some of the points involved with criminal attempt charges. After all, an attempt isn't the crime itself. However, what they fail to realize is that an attempt is a crime, and it's punishable by law. Sometimes the punishment may seem harsh, especially if there was no harm in the end. Here's how criminal attempt works.

The 3 Elements of Criminal Attempt

When someone tries to commit a crime and fails, it's criminal attempt. A few elements must exist for a charge of criminal attempt to stick. Criminal law varies by state, and some jurisdictions may handle certain things differently. In general, these three elements have to be proven against you.

1. It Starts with Intention

Prosecution must prove that you had full intention to commit the offense. That means they must prove that you wanted to commit it and that you took actions in preparation of doing it.

Intent is at play even in harsh instances, such as when someone fires a gun at another and misses. The prosecution must prove the person who did the shooting intended to shoot beforehand.

2. There Must Be Some Definite Action

Prosecution must prove that you decisively took action to commit the offense. These actions are separate from preparatory actions. These actions represent the actual "attempt" as most people think of the word.

3. Proving Failure Proves the Attempt

Failure can become tricky because it represents quite a few possibilities. These possibilities can make the difference between freedom, a slap on the wrist, a reduced charge, or a lengthy prison sentence. By this time, it's known that you failed in your attempt, but the question is why. Why did you fail?

  • Was the crime literally impossible to carry out?
  • If it was impossible, did you know that beforehand or while in process?

There are two types of impossibilities. Legal impossibility is when you think you're committing a crime, but it actually isn't a crime. Factual impossibility is when you attempt a crime, but there are circumstances that make it impossible.

  • Did you abandon the crime of your own free will?
  • Did you make a decision that you will never commit the crime?

Abandoning the crime after building up to it can help a lot. Unfortunately, the attempt is still there, but it can become a lesser charge. Sometimes, if you abandon a crime before committing any action on it, you must also show that it wasn't because of a factual impossibility you found out about.

  • Did you commit the crime, but it failed?

This is the hardest type of attempt to combat. If you actually went through all the motions, completed all the actions, and did everything you could to commit the crime, then the punishment can be harsh.

In some cases, these kinds of attempts can have the same consequences as the crime itself. Even if the attempt failed completely, you still went through the entire ordeal up to the action that would have turned it from an attempt to commit, to actually committing. This is especially true of places with mandatory minimums.

Examining an Attempted Burglary

For example, "attempted burglary" implies that someone went through the all the actions for the burglary.

  • They stole the key to a backdoor
  • The picked up a vehicle specifically to carry off stolen goods
  • They may even have shown up at the house

However, for whatever reason, the burglary attempt failed. That attempt is the crime. Even if the person that was making the attempt decided to quit without going up to the door, that person can still find themselves charged and sentenced.

How people are charged can vary by a wide margin. This is why it's important to involve a criminal lawyer like Novak Lee Atty At Law if you face any charges. Many people have changes of heart, or renounce their ways before committing a crime. A criminal attorney can help you figure out the best way to prove that.