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Criminal Law Spring 2017

VI. Attempt

Attempt, an “inchoate” offense, lies somewhere between merely thinking about committing a crime and successfully completing it. How far should someone have to go before his actions are criminal? On the other end of the spectrum, if someone fully intends and attempts to commit a crime—say, fires a bullet intending to kill a person—why should he punished less because he missed, or because he grievously injured but did not kill the target? Why does the law take into account the actual result at all, if the act and the mens rea are the elements that establish individual blameworthiness? The cases in this section consider the level of mens rea and actus reus needed for an attempted crime. Consider how the court adjusts these requirements in attempt cases to balance a broad variety of social aims, such as punishing blameworthiness; deterrence; creating incentives for abandonment; minimizing the arbitrariness of criminal punishment; and giving potential criminals the opportunity to change their minds.