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An inchoate crime might never be completed. The rationale of punishing a defendant for an inchoate crime is prevention and deterrence. The three inchoate crimes are attempt, conspiracy, and solicitation.
The criminal act element required for attempt must be more than thoughts or mere preparation. Modern jurisdictions use four tests to ascertain attempt. The proximity test analyzes how close the defendant is to completing the offense by examining how much is left to be done. The defendant may have to come dangerously close to completion but generally does not have to reach the last act before completion. The res ipsa loquitur test looks at the moment in time when the defendant stopped progressing toward completion to see if the defendant’s acts indicate that the defendant has no other purpose than commission of the offense. The probable desistance test focuses on how far the defendant has progressed to see if it is probable that the defendant won’t desist until the crime is complete. The Model Penal Code substantial steps test has two parts. First, the defendant must take substantial steps toward completion of the crime. Second, the defendant’s actions must strongly corroborate the defendant’s criminal purpose.
Some jurisdictions also criminalize preparatory crimes such as the manufacture or possession of burglar’s tools. Preparatory crimes can be combined with attempt under the appropriate circumstances.
The criminal intent element required for attempt is the specific intent or purposely to commit the crime attempted. Legal impossibility can be a defense to attempt if the defendant mistakenly believes that a legal act attempted is illegal. Factual impossibility is not a defense to attempt if the crime cannot be completed because the facts are not as the defendant believes them to be. Voluntary abandonment is also a defense to attempt in some jurisdictions if the defendant voluntarily and completely renounces the attempted crime.
If a jurisdiction recognizes transferred intent, a defendant can be criminally responsible for attempt against the intended victim and the completed offense against the actual victim. In many jurisdictions, attempt merges into the crime if the crime is completed. Jurisdictions vary as to how they grade attempt; either attempt is graded the same or lower than the completed offense.
The criminal act element required for conspiracy is an agreement to commit any crime, commit a felony, falsely indict another for a crime, or falsely maintain any lawsuit, depending on the jurisdiction. Some jurisdictions also require an overt act in furtherance of the conspiracy that could be a legal or preparatory act.
The criminal intent element required for conspiracy in many jurisdictions is the specific intent or purposely to agree and to commit the crime at issue. In some states, a coconspirator can be prosecuted even if another coconspirator is not prosecuted or acquitted. Coconspirators do not need to know every other coconspirator, as long as they are aware that other coconspirators exist. A wheel conspiracy connects all members to one central member. A chain conspiracy connects members to each other in a linear fashion.
The Pinkerton rule holds coconspirators criminally responsible for every foreseeable crime committed in furtherance of the conspiracy. Wharton’s rule creates a judicial presumption that a crime requiring two parties merges into a conspiracy made up of two parties.
Renunciation can be a defense to conspiracy if a coconspirator voluntarily and completely abandons the conspiracy and thwarts the crime that is its object. Conspiracy generally does not merge into the conspired offense. Jurisdictions vary as to how they grade conspiracy. Usually it is graded the same or lower than the crime that is the conspiracy’s object, but it is not unconstitutional to punish conspiracy more severely than the conspired offense. The federal RICO statute is targeted at organized crime, including conspiracy.
Solicitation is the instigation of an agreement to commit any crime or, in some jurisdictions, a capital or first-degree felony. The criminal act element required for solicitation is words or conduct of inducement. The criminal intent element required for solicitation is specific intent or purposely to promote the crime solicited.
Renunciation is a defense to solicitation if it is voluntary and complete and thwarts the solicited offense. Jurisdictions vary as to how they grade solicitation. Some grade solicitation the same as the crime solicited, others vary the grading depending on the crime solicited, and still others grade solicitation as a misdemeanor.
You are a prosecutor seeking a promotion. You want to win your next case so that you can make a good impression on your superior. Read the prompt, review the case, and then decide whether you would accept or reject it from a pool of cases available to junior prosecutors. Check your answers using the answer key at the end of the chapter.