Attempt, an “inchoate” offense, lies somewhere between merely thinking about committing a crime and successfully completing it. The cases in this section analyze and raise questions about what actus reus and mens rea would constitute an attempted crime. They also reflect on other murky questions, such as the following: How far can one go before their actions are criminalized as attempt? If they haven't yet acted to pull off the crime, what is the basis for knowing they definitely will? How seriously should we punish someone who fully intends to commit a crime but misses the mark while attempting it? How about if they are stopped before they fire the bullet?
As you read each of these cases, pay attention to how the court adjusts and adapts its analysis to balance a broad variety of social aims such as blameworthiness; deterrence; providing law enforcement the authority to intervene; minimizing the arbitrariness of criminal punishment; and giving potential criminals the incentive to change their minds.
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