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15 January, 2016 - 09:31

It is not necessary to commit the intended crime to be found guilty of a criminal offense. An attempt to commit the crime is punishable as well, though usually not as severely. For example, Brett points a gun at Ashley, intending to shoot her dead. He pulls the trigger but his aim is off, and he misses her heart by four feet. He is guilty of an attempt to murder. Suppose, however, that earlier in the day, when he was preparing to shoot Ashley, Brett had been overheard in his apartment muttering to himself of his intention, and that a neighbor called the police. When they arrived, he was just snapping his gun into his shoulder holster.

At that point, courts in most states would not consider him guilty of an attempt because he had not passed beyond the stage of preparation. After having buttoned his jacket he might have reconsidered and put the gun away. Determining when the accused has passed beyond mere preparation and taken an actual step toward perpetrating the crime is often difficult and is usually for the jury to decide.