Criminal statutes contain definitions of criminal conduct, state of mind, and other principles of criminal law, usually in plain prose format, or occasionally in a list of alternatives, such as the different mental states, for one part of the crime. Each of these definitions is called an "element of the crime." The prosecutor must prove every element of the alleged crime beyond a reasonable doubt in order for the defendant to be found guilty. In instances in which a person attempted a crime, but did not complete it, the prosecutor must prove every element of the criminal attempt statute beyond a reasonable doubt. When a criminal is arrested in the middle of committing an offense, such as a bank robbery, this is not difficult. However, there are more complex examples of criminal attempts covered in the readings this week. Because most crimes do not have their own attempt statutes, for example, "attempted murder," you have to read the attempt statute in conjunction with the statute defining the crime, such as "murder." The attempt statute will state what sort of punishment is given in relationship to the grading of the crime attempted.
To prepare for this:
Focus on elements of crime involved in an attempt. Also, consider the Model Penal Code's approach to define criminal attempts.
Select an example of someone who was charged with attempting murder but has not yet been tried. You can look for examples in the news or on the Internet.
Using the Internet, find the attempt statute and the murder statute for your state. If you cannot find the statute for your own state or if you live outside the U.S., look up a state from the list available on Contemporary Criminal Law: Cases, Concepts, and Controversies: Study Site.
Think about the elements of criminal attempts defined in the attempt to commit murder statutes in your state and consider how they apply to your example.
Find the punishment for attempted murder in your state's crimes code.
Consider how the punishment for attempting murder compares to the punishment for committing murder.
Reflect on whether you agree or disagree with the punishment for attempting murder and consider why.
In 1 to 2 pages:
Briefly describe the example you selected.
Explain why or why not the person in your example should be found guilty of attempted murder. Justify your explanation by referring to the elements of criminal attempts.
Briefly describe the punishment for attempted murder in your state or the state you selected, noting whether it is the same as or less than the punishment for committing murder. Then explain whether you agree or disagree with the punishment for attempted murder and why.