What is the crime of attempt?
Attempt is a type of inchoate crime – – meaning that the crime was not completed.
Although there is some variation from state to state, a defendant is guilty of attempt if the prosecutor can prove two elements: (i) the defendant intended to commit a crime; and (ii) the defendant took steps to put the crime into effect.
For example, assume a person decides to rob a bank and then drives to the bank with a gun. Before entering the bank he is caught by a police officer. In this case, the defendant did not successfully rob the bank, however, he is likely guilty of attempting to rob the bank.
Deciding to rob the bank means that the first element is satisfied because the defendant intended to commit the crime.
Next, by going to the bank with a gun he took steps to put the crime into effect.
Because there was an intention followed by steps to put the crime into effect, the defendant is guilty of attempting to rob the bank.
What are steps to put the crime into effect?
On law school and bar exams (as in real life) you can expect to see some tricky fact patterns concerning whether or not the defendant actually took steps to put the crime into effect.
States generally require that the defendant take “substantial” steps towards committing the crime or got “dangerously close” to committing the crime.
A defendant might not be guilty of attempt if he did not move much past initial steps of preparing to commit the crime.
For example, if a defendant decided to rob a bank but did nothing other than confirming the bank’s hours of operation, he would have a strong argument that he is not guilty of attempt. Although he planned to commit the crime, he merely confirmed when the bank would be open.
On the other hand, driving to the bank with a gun after deciding to rob the bank is probably sufficient to convict him of attempt.