Attorneys Defending Felony and Misdemeanor Attempt Crimes
Even when someone does not or cannot finish committing a criminal offense, the law still aims to punish them for trying. Sometimes the government seeks to punish someone because he or she thought about or talked about committing a crime but never actually intended to follow through.
What happens if a person tries to commit a crime but is unsuccessful?
Some may think that if a person attempts to commit a crime and is unsuccessful, then no crime has been committed. For example, consider a situation where an Illinois resident plans a bank robbery in Michigan. In preparation for the crime, he legally purchases a firearm, a facemask, and gloves. He puts the items in his car’s trunk (properly storing the firearm) and drives from his home in Illinois to the bank in Michigan. He breaks no laws on the way to the bank. He parks his car, gets out, and goes around to the trunk to retrieve the legal firearm, gloves, and facemask. On his way to the trunk, he trips and hits his head on the ground knocking himself out. The police respond and arrest him for attempted robbery. The bank robbery was never completed. Is he guilty? Under Michigan and Federal law, he would be guilty of Attempted Bank Robbery if the prosecutor could prove that he intended to rob the bank.
Every crime is made up of parts called “elements.” For a defendant to be guilty of a crime, he or she must be guilty of every element of the crime. For an attempted crime, the elements are (1) the intent to commit a crime, and (2) some act in furtherance of the crime, even though the crime was not completed. In the bank robbery example, buying the gun, facemask, and gloves are all acts in furtherance of the crime. Driving to Michigan and parking at the bank are additional acts in furtherance of the crime. In this situation, a state or federal prosecutor would likely charge the defendant with Attempted Bank Robbery. The case could be charged in federal court because the person crossed the Illinois/Michigan border to commit the offense.
How far do you need to go toward completion for there to be an attempted crime?
The law makes prosecution fairly simple, as all that is needed is “any act toward commission” of the offense. In the example above, “any act” could be simply putting the firearm in the trunk (if it was done for the purpose of committing the bank robbery). The possible examples of attempted crimes are limited only by the imagination. Because the crime does not have to be completed for there to be a criminal charge for attempt, the prosecutor will have to rely on other evidence to prove that the defendant intended to commit a crime. Talented and experienced prosecutors know all of the tricks of the trade to get juries to convict in these cases. A defendant’s best hope of avoiding a conviction is with an expert defense attorney who will do whatever it takes to give his or her client the best chance of winning in court.
Penalties for Attempting to Commit a Crime
Penalties depend on what crime is allegedly attempted and what the penalty is for the completed crime. For instance:
- For crimes punishable by life in prison or for more than 5 years, the penalty for attempt can be as high as 5 years in prison.
- For crimes punishable by less than 5 years in prison, the penalty can be up to 2 years in prison, or it can be 1 year or less in the county jail and up to 5 years of probation.
- The law states that in no case shall the punishment for an attempt exceed ½ of the greatest punishment possible for the completed crime.
Defenses to Attempting to Commit a Crime
An astute and experienced criminal defense attorney knows that many times, it may be difficult for the prosecutor to prove that a crime was attempted or that the defendant intended to commit the crime. One of the most difficult things for a prosecutor to prove is intent, because a person’s thoughts are solely in that person’s mind. If there is little or no outward acts or physical evidence to show what the person was thinking, the prosecutor may not be able to prove the defendant guilty.
Suppose a would-be armed robber is approaching a victim intending to rob him, and he is unaware a police officer is watching. The officer’s gut instinct tells him a robbery is about to take place. If the officer yells out a warning or command and stops the robbery from taking place, it would be nearly impossible to prove the defendant intended to rob the target. Even if the officer conducts an investigation and stops and frisks the would-be robber and finds a weapon on him, the most the defendant could probably be charged with would be carrying the weapon, if the search is held to be valid.
Successful and Powerful Defenses to Attempted Crime Charges
- An act towards the commission of a crime was not done;
- There was no intent to commit any crime;
- The defendant was doing something he had a right to do (such as attempting to break into a car or house he had permission to enter and use);
- The defendant was at the location of an alleged attempted crime for a legitimate alternative reason;
- The crime that the defendant was allegedly attempting to commit would have been obviously impossible, and therefore it is unreasonable to claim he was attempting to commit it (for example, driving away an automobile where it was evident the vehicle had no engine, wheels, or steering wheel);
- Abandonment and Withdrawal. It is a defense to an attempted crime if the defendant can prove that he or she voluntarily abandoned the crime or voluntarily withdrew from the commission of the offense before it was completed.
Defenses are always based on the particular circumstances of an alleged criminal act. The ability possessed by the best criminal defense attorneys is that they can develop a defense of some kind no matter what the circumstances. The best can always find some way to help. In some cases, a charge may be dismissed, and the case thrown out of court. Sometimes, if the evidence is overwhelming and an outright dismissal is not possible, the best attorneys find a way to convince the prosecutor to reduce the charge (a plea bargain) or convince the judge to reduce the punishment.
Defense Attorneys Sucessfulling Protecting Clients Charged With Attempt Crimes
The Defense Team at LEWIS & DICKSTEIN, P.L.L.C. have decades of experience defending misdemeanor and felony attempt charges throughout Michigan and in federal court. We have a well-earned reputation for providing the highest-level quality of defense and zealous representation while showing compassion and personal attention to each client. When other lawyers are unable or unwilling to put up a compelling defense, our attorneys will stop at nothing to protect and defend our clients. Call us today at (248) 263-6800 or complete a Request for Assistance Form and we will contact you promptly.