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Inchoate criminal charges: when a crime isn’t a crime

On Behalf of | Mar 8, 2021 | Criminal Defense

To convict someone of a crime in a state or federal courtroom in Houston, the prosecutor must prove beyond a reasonable doubt that the defendant committed every element of the crime. Otherwise, the judge or jury should find the defendant not guilty.

Then there are the crimes that make it illegal to try to commit a crime. These are called inchoate or incomplete crimes. These charges can result in a conviction, even if you did not actually commit the complete version of the crime.

Here is a brief overview of two common inchoate crimes: conspiracy and attempt.

Conspiracy: a plan to commit a crime

A criminal conspiracy happens when at least two people agree to commit a crime and take at least one step toward completing that goal. This step does not have to be large. It can be as simple as a phone call or buying a used car. If the prosecution can prove that the action was made in furtherance of the conspiracy, a conviction could result. But a conversation about committing a crime without a subsequent action intended to further the scheme is not a conspiracy.

Attempt: trying to commit a crime

An attempt crime is when someone intends to commit a particular crime and takes direct action toward committing it without actually completing it. For example, a person who walks up to a car intending to steal it but cannot hotwire the ignition and walks away is guilty of attempted car theft. Not every crime has an attempt version because specific intent must be one of the elements of the full crime.

Though conspiracy and attempt charges generally carry lighter sentences than full crimes, they are still serious. Federal charges can mean prison time. Instead of trying to deal with the charges yourself, consider retaining an experienced defense attorney to represent you.