attempt | Definition

Doc's CJ Glossary by Adam J. McKee
Course: Criminal Law

In the criminal law context, an attempt refers to a type of crime in which a person intentionally and substantially moves towards the commission of a specific offense but ultimately does not complete the offense.

An attempt crime is considered a crime of specific intent, meaning that the offender must have intended to commit the offense in question. The attempt crime is an offense in and of itself, even if the underlying offense is not completed.

In order to prove an attempt crime, the prosecution must establish that the offender took some overt act towards committing the offense. The overt act must be a substantial step towards completing the offense, and it must be more than mere preparation. The courts have generally held that a substantial step is one that is more than mere planning and that moves the offender closer to completing the offense.

For example, if an individual buys a gun and drives to a bank with the intention of robbing it, they have taken a substantial step towards committing the offense of bank robbery. However, if an individual merely talks about robbing a bank but does not take any action towards carrying out the robbery, they have not taken a substantial step towards completing the offense.

The specific intent to complete the offense is also a critical element of an attempted crime. The offender must have had the intent to commit the underlying offense and must have taken the overt act toward completing it with that intent. The intent to commit the offense must be proven beyond a reasonable doubt in order to secure a conviction.

Attempt crimes are prosecuted differently than completed crimes, but they are still taken very seriously by law enforcement and the courts. In some cases, attempted crimes carry penalties that are nearly as severe as those for the completed offense. This is because the criminal justice system seeks to prevent crime before it occurs, and attempts can be seen as a warning sign that the offender poses a threat to society.

[ Glossary ]

Last Modified: 05/04/2023

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