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What is an Attempt?

Updated on August 23, 2010

An attempt, in criminal law, is an act that is done with intent to commit a crime and that, if not prevented, would result in commission of the crime. Three elements are present in an "attempt" to commit a crime: (1) intent to commit it, (2) performance of some act toward its commission, and (3) failure to carry it out. For example, a person who reaches through an open window to steal a wallet lying on the table, but fails because the owner snatches it away from his grasp, commits an attempted theft. An assailant who fires a gun with intent to murder, but misses, commits attempted murder.

In an attempt, there must be some overt act, beyond mere preparation, that would ordinarily result in the commission of the intended crime were it not for the intervention of extraneous causes. Without criminal intent, however, no act is an "attempt," no matter how well it is adapted to an apparently criminal result.


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