Is It a Crime to Attempt a Crime?

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If you attempt to commit a crime, and are unsuccessful, can you still face punishment in the state of California? It might surprise you, but the answer is yes. You can still face criminal charges even if you attempt to commit a crime and fail. 

The punishment for an attempt charge should not be dismissed. Even though it would be less severe than the punishment for a crime that was actually completed, it can still come with years in jail and thousands of dollars in fines. If you are facing an attempt charge for a crime such as robbery, burglary or rape, it is in your best interest to secure an experienced criminal defense attorney right away. 

The Law Office of Joni Eisenstein has successfully guided San Diego clients facing attempt charges through the complex California legal system. With attorney Joni Eisenstein on your side, you can rest assured that you have a competent, skilled and experienced attorney working hard on your behalf. 

How are Attempt Crimes Defined Under the California Law? 

Under California Penal Code Sections 21a and 664, “every person who attempts to commit any crime, but fails, or is prevented or intercepted in its perpetration, shall be punished where no provision is made by law for the punishment of those attempts..”

There are two elements that a prosecutor must prove in order for a defendant to be convicted of attempting a crime. First, they must show that the defendant took a direct step toward committing the crime, even if that step was ultimately unsuccessful. Secondly, they must show that the defendant had the intention to commit the crime.

A direct step refers to an action that is meant to put previous preparation or plans into action. By taking this step, the defendant is indicating their intent to commit the crime. The prosecutor must show that the defendant took an action beyond preparation, such as physically restraining the victim or prying open a window. 

What is an Example of an Attempt Crime? 

A man has been casing a home in an upscale neighborhood for more than a week. One night, he approaches the side of the house and attempts to open a window so that he can enter the premises and steal valuable merchandise. Suddenly, a light turns on next door and a neighbor threatens to call the cops. The man runs away, but is later apprehended by the police.

In this scenario, the defendant had planned and prepared to burglarize the home. He took a direct step toward perpetrating the crime by attempting to open the window in the middle of the night. Although the defendant was intercepted before he could commit the crime, under California law, he took a direct step toward committing burglary and demonstrated the intention to commit that crime.

However, imagine instead that the man cased the house, and on the night he designated to commit the crime, he got cold feet and ultimately did not approach the home or attempt to burglarize it. Even though the man planned and prepared for the crime, he did not take a direct step toward committing the crime and therefore could not be convicted of an attempted burglary.

What are the Penalties for an Attempt Crime Conviction? 

Many people are under the misconception that attempting a crime without being successful will result in minimal penalties. However, that is simply not the case. In general, the penalty for an attempted crime is 1/2 the jail term or fine that would be imposed for a conviction for the crime itself. Attempt crimes can include both felonies and misdemeanors.

What are Possible Defenses for Attempt Crimes? 

If you have been charged with attempting to commit a felony or misdemeanor crime in California, you must hire a criminal defense attorney right away. Your attorney will consult with you to understand the specific facts of your case and identify your strongest defenses.

A common defense for an attempt crime is to show that the defendant did not take a direct step to commit the crime. Without this element, the prosecutor cannot gain a conviction. Another tactic that your defense might explore is to cast doubt on the defendants intent to commit the crime. Remember, the prosecutor must show intent beyond a reasonable doubt. 

Contact the Law Office of Joni Eisenstein today to schedule a free consultation with our experienced and tenacious attorney. Joni Eisenstein has more than 25 years of experience defending clients who have been charged with attempting a crime in San Diego. For more information about this criminal charge or any other criminal legal matters, contact San Diego criminal defense lawyer Joni Eisenstein today.