Inchoate Crimes: Attempt

West Palm Beach Criminal Defense Lawyer

Florida prohibits the commission of inchoate crimes. This means that certain acts are criminalized, even though no actual harm is committed. The purpose of convicting for these crimes is to punish and to deter future crime. Florida law recognizes the offenses of attempt, conspiracy, and solicitation. A person commits criminal attempt when he or she begins to commit a crime but is prevented from completing it. If you have been charged with attempt to commit a crime, you should contact an experienced defense attorney as soon as possible.

Criminal Attempt

In Florida, a person commits the offense of criminal attempt when he or she tries to commit a crime, but fails in the attempt. The prosecution must prove that the defendant:

  • Made some affirmative act toward the commission of a crime; and
  • Would have committed the crime, except that someone prevented the crime, or the defendant failed in the commission.

Once the offense has been committed, it is no longer an attempt, and the defendant will be charged with the actual crime. Additionally, if a person is convicted of the actual offense, he or she cannot also be convicted of attempt—the crimes merge. For example, a person cannot be convicted of both robbery and attempted robbery.

Criminal attempt applies to many different crimes. A person may commit attempted burglary or theft, attempted murder, attempted battery, attempted possession of stolen goods, attempted manufacture of drugs, etc.

Action

To commit an attempt crime, a person must commit an affirmative act, which must go beyond merely thinking or discussing the crime. Additionally, the act must be sufficiently closely connected to the actual crime. For example, if a person purchases a gun, intending to commit armed robbery a few months later, the purchase would likely not be sufficient to sustain an attempt charge. But driving to the store that the defendant planned to rob would be sufficient.

Intent

A person is guilty of attempt if he or she had the specific intent to commit the crime and took action to complete the offense, under the circumstances as he or she believed them to exist. It does not matter if unknown circumstances made the completion of the offense impossible.

Thus, factual impossibility and legal impossibility are not defenses in Florida. Factual impossibility occurs when a defendant misunderstand the facts of the situation, rendering the commission of the crime impossible. For example, this could mean trying to steal a car with flat tires. Legal impossibility occurs when the defendant believed that what he or she was attempting to do was a crime, but actually the conduct was not prohibited. For example, this could include a defendant trying to steal his own car.

Abandonment

Abandonment is a defense to attempt crimes. If the defendant abandoned the attempt to commit the crime or otherwise prevented the commission of the crime, he or she will not be convicted of criminal attempt. The renunciation must be complete and voluntary. The defendant cannot use the abandonment defense if he or she was forced to abandon the attempt because of some outside force.

If you have been arrested for or charged with a criminal attempt, an attorney can help you review your options. Please contact West Palm Beach criminal defense attorney William Wallshein for a free initial consultation.