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What is a “criminal attempt” and why is it a crime?

What is a “criminal attempt” and why is it a crime?

| Nov 19, 2020 | Felonies |

If someone attempts to commit a crime and fails, that’s still a crime. It’s called a “criminal attempt.” 

States vary somewhat in their legal definitions of criminal attempt. Here in Florida, the law says, “A person who attempts to commit an offense prohibited by law and in such attempt does any act toward the commission of such offense, but fails in the perpetration or is intercepted or prevented in the execution thereof, commits the offense of criminal attempt…” Criminal attempt also applies to an adult who ”with intent to commit an offense prohibited by law, allures, seduces, coaxes, or induces a child under the age of 12 to engage in an offense prohibited by law.”

Intent is a key factor

For a crime to be “attempted” under the law, a person must have had a specific and premeditated intent to commit the crime. Intent alone is not enough to charge someone with a criminal attempt. They must take some action toward committing the crime. A person might fantasize about poisoning their spouse’s food. That’s not a crime. If they slip poison into their food with the intent to harm or kill them, even if they don’t succeed, they could be charged with attempted murder.

An attempt can involve numerous steps

That’s an extreme example. Attempted robbery is perhaps a more common charge. There can be numerous steps involved in attempting a robbery –- like making a plan, obtaining weapons, arranging for someone to drive a getaway car, going to the bank or other location to be robbed and demanding money while brandishing (or pretending to have) a weapon. Even if the would-be robber is frightened off by a security guard, employee or customer before they get any money, they’ve still committed an attempted robbery. 

How far a person is into their attempt to commit a crime before they stop or the plan is foiled may have an impact on the penalties they face. If you have been charged with attempting to commit a criminal act, it’s essential to seek experienced legal guidance, as the penalties could have a drastic impact on your life