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An attempted crime is one of a number of inchoate crimes under California law, with two other more common ones being solicitation and conspiracy. Literally defined, “inchoate” means something that is begun but not fully-formed or completed. Thus, when a person is facing an attempted crime charge, prosecutors will generally have some evidence to indicate that the person intended to commit a crime and then took at least one “substantive” step in that regard, however, the intended crime was not completed or committed. In such a case, the attempted crime becomes the basis for the charge, and the person suspected can still be exposed to stiff penalties if convicted of the charged offense.
In Los Angeles, an attempted crime charge can result in a guilty verdict when the State of California is able to prove beyond a reasonable doubt that the elements of intent and substantive action or movement toward the intended crime are present. An attempted crime charge may be maintained even in instances where the accused changed their mind, if it can be shown that the intent to commit the crime was present when they took steps towards committing it. A person could also be charged with an attempted crime in instances where their plan would have been impossible to carry out, as long as they believed they would have been able to commit the attempted offense.
As for taking substantive actions toward committing the crime, California law requires that there be clear and definite movement toward putting the plan to commit the crime into action. The mere planning and preparing to take action will generally not rise to the level of a substantive step taken toward committing the offense of an attempted crime.
A charge of an attempted crime arises when a person plans the crime, takes substantive steps toward committing the crime, and then actually attempts to commit the crime, but for whatever reason, fails. This is called a “completed attempt” where, for example, a person tries to run someone down with a car and the intended target hops out of the way moments before impact. Conversely, a person who fails to commit the intended crime because someone intervened or they changed their mind at the last minute could face an attempted crime charge based on an “incomplete attempt.”
Upon conviction in Los Angeles, the penalties for commission of an attempted crime, while generally less punitive than those meted out for the actual commission of a crime, can nonetheless be life-altering and harsh. Although the penalties for specific crimes such as murder are clearly set out in California’s Penal Code, these established penalties can be increased based on numerous other factors related to the charged offense and the accused’s criminal history. In addition to prison time, a person convicted of an attempted crime could be required to make restitution to their intended target, and could lose forever certain other personal freedoms such as the right to own and be in possession of firearms.
When an attempted crime is levied, the accused could benefit from immediately seeking the assistance of a criminal law attorney to assess the appropriateness of the charges. Such an attorney may also be able to have the charges reduced or dismissed after a thorough investigation reveals the true facts on which the charges are based. They may also be able to resolve the case in a plea bargain without the need to go trial.