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Criminal Law Simons, Volume III

Inchoate Offenses

Our final topic for the semester is inchoate offenses, those situations in which defendants may be prosecuted even though the crime is incomplete. We will first study conspiracy, which criminalizes defendants' agreement to commit a crime together. We will explore conspiracy law in the context of the government's ongoing prosecution of the January 6 insurrectionists. We will then turn to attempt, which covers those situations in which a defendant wants to commit a crime but (for one reason or another) doesn’t. We will start by exploring the basic doctrine (mens rea and actus reus) and then consider “defenses” (impossibility and abandonment). In this assignment, we will consider important policy questions: Which is a more important aim of the criminal law: preventing harms or fairly apportioning moral responsibility? More generally, which is more important in setting punishment: harm or culpability? We will conclude our last class with some final thoughts about the purpose of the criminal justice system and the role of lawyers in ensuring that it does, in fact, result in justice.