Even if a defendant fails to fully complete a crime, they can still be charged with the attempt of that crime, i.e. in the case of an uncompleted or inchoate offense. The requirements for proving attempts vary by jurisdiction, though a party must always cross the line from mere thoughts or preparation to be found guilty of an attempted crime. Attempts can either be completed or incomplete.
In jurisdictions following the common law, specific intent to complete the underlying crime must generally be shown (even if the underlying crime was a general intent or strict liability offense) as well as show that the actor had the power to complete the crime almost immediately. For example, in People v. Rizzo, a group of men who drove around town with the goal of robbing a specific person could not be found guilty of attempted robbery because they never actually found the would-be victim.
In jurisdictions following the Model Penal Code (MPC), however, a person is guilty of an attempted crime if they took a “substantial step” towards the completion of that crime. The “substantial step” must strongly indicate the person’s intent to commit the crime. For example, in State v. Lammers the court determined that purchasing an assault rifle and engaging in target practice is a sufficient substantial step to uphold a conviction for attempted first degree assault.
[Last updated in June of 2022 by the Wex Definitions Team]