Can you be charged with a crime when the crime didn’t actually take place? In fact, you can. The charge may not be for the commission of the crime but rather for the attempt to commit it. Here’s what is required for a failed attempt to be considered an actual crime.
1. Intent to Commit a Crime
First, the prosecution must show that you intended to commit an actual crime. Accidental activities or even things that happen in the heat of the moment don’t necessarily translate into intentional crimes. The difference is the state of mind and premeditation of the incident, no matter whether planned for a short or long period of time.
If you stumble into a fight and almost hit someone while attempting to simply extricate yourself, for example, you probably didn’t intend to commit an assault. If you went to your ex’s favorite watering hole solely to get drunk and pick a fight with their new partner, though, you may have shown intent regardless of whether or not you actually make contact. You may, then, be charged with attempted assault.
Intent is a very important element to understand. Consider, for instance, that you went to the bar intending to assault your ex’s partner but decide not to at the last moment. On your way out, though, you stumble into that fight among others and almost hit someone else. Because you didn’t plan to assault that person, your original intent may not be an issue at all.
2. Acts of Furtherance to Commit
Of course, American law does not punish someone for thinking about committing a crime or even for going so far as to idly plan one. In order for it to be an actionable charge, you must have taken one or more substantial steps — also called acts of furtherance — toward actually committing the crime you’re thinking about.
There is no one single answer to what makes something an act of furtherance. It’s more than planning, but it does include planning. Talking about how nice it would be to have your rich neighbor’s fancy car and even discussing with a friend how you’d do it may be planning but it’s probably not a substantial step. But buying tools to break in and watching the family’s routine might be considered acts of furtherance.
3. Failure to Commit a Crime
Finally, did the attempt work or not? This is the simplest concept involved in this kind of charge. If you were found to have intended to commit a crime and made substantial acts, did it still fail? If you planned to break into a house but couldn’t get through their locks, your attempt failed. It remains an attempted crime. If you did get inside, it may become the crime of burglary or trespassing.
In some situations, you could be charged with one attempted crime along with one actual crime at the same time. How? Perhaps you managed to get inside the neighbor’s garage successfully but then couldn’t get the car started. This might result in a charge of attempted theft of the car (which failed) and a charge of trespassing (which succeeded).
Where to Learn More
Understanding the elements that actually make up a crime is key to protecting yourself. And when it comes to charges of attempted crimes, it’s easy to see how subtle differences can have a big impact on the end results.
Illinois residents who face criminal charges of any kind should start by meeting with the legal pros at Daniels, Long & Pinsel, LLC. We can help you determine the best strategy to defend yourself and build a solid case no matter what the circumstances. Call today to make an appointment or get answers to your questions.