inchoate offenses | Definition

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

Inchoate offenses, also known as incomplete or anticipatory offenses, refer to criminal acts that involve planning or attempting to commit a crime but failing to complete it.

To grasp what inchoate offenses are, it’s important to know their key elements. There are three components: the intent to commit a crime, taking substantial steps towards committing the crime, and the failure to complete the crime. Remember, for someone to be charged with an inchoate offense, they don’t need to have succeeded in committing the crime. It’s the intent and action towards the crime that matters.

Different Types of Inchoate Crimes

This category of crimes includes various types of crimes, like conspiracy, solicitation, and attempt.


Conspiracy involves two or more people planning to commit a crime. The key factor is the agreement between parties to carry out a criminal act. Even if they don’t follow through with the act, the fact that they planned it is enough to constitute a conspiracy.


Solicitation is when one person encourages, requests, or commands another person to commit a crime. The crime doesn’t need to occur for the act to be considered solicitation. The simple act of encouraging someone to commit a crime qualifies as an inchoate offense.


Attempt occurs when someone intends to commit a crime and takes steps towards it but doesn’t succeed. A person can be charged with an attempted crime if they’ve made a significant effort to carry out the crime.

Importance of Inchoate Offenses in Law

The concept of inchoate offenses is vital in criminal law because it allows law enforcement and the judicial system to intervene before a crime happens. Even though the crime hasn’t been completed, the planning or attempt is seen as a threat to public safety.

Penalties for Inchoate Offenses

The penalties for inchoate offenses can be quite severe, often reflecting the seriousness of the crime that was planned. The sentencing for these offenses is usually determined by the nature and severity of the intended crime, the actions taken towards committing it, and the intent demonstrated by the offender. Penalties can range from fines to imprisonment.

Inchoate Offenses: An Early Warning System

In many ways, inchoate offenses act as an early warning system. They allow law enforcement to act before a potentially serious crime occurs. By punishing actions like conspiracy, solicitation, and attempts, the law aims to deter people from even considering criminal activity.

In conclusion, inchoate offenses highlight the proactive role of the criminal justice system. They demonstrate a commitment to preventing harm and maintaining public safety by stopping crimes before they occur. These laws emphasize that not only are completed crimes punishable but so too are the planning and attempt stages.

[ Glossary ]

Last Modified: 05/22/2023

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