Attempt, an “inchoate” offense, lies somewhere between merely thinking about committing a crime and successfully completing it. If they haven't yet acted, how do we know they would have committed the crime? How far should someone have to go before their actions are criminal? How seriously should we punish someone who fully intends and attempts to commit a crime—say, fires a bullet intending to kill a person, but misses? Should they be punished less severly if they are stopped before they fire the bulllet? The cases in this section consider the level of mens rea and actus reus needed for an attempted crime. Notice how the court adjusts these requirements in attempt cases to balance a broad variety of social aims, such as blameworthiness; deterrence; minimizing the arbitrariness of criminal punishment; and giving potential criminals the incentive to change their minds.
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