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In criminal law, you can be prosecuted for crimes that didn’t ever actually come to fruition. These crimes are called inchoate crimes, meaning that the attempt at the crime was unsuccessful or incomplete. Although the actions in and of themselves may not be criminal, inchoate crimes are prosecutable as a way to deter criminal behavior.
Attempt, conspiracy, and solicitation are all considered inchoate crimes. Here’s what you need to know about these crimes to protect yourself from crimes that can be perpetrated in Colorado without ever actually being completed.
An attempt at a crime means that a crime was attempted but failed to be completed for one of two reasons. These reasons include:
Note that you can’t be charged for attempting any crime under Colorado law. There are only certain crimes that you can be charged with attempting to perpetrate – crimes that necessitate something called specific intent. Specific intent crimes are different from crimes with general intent because they require a physical act to complete, such as murder, assault, or battery.
Also, to be found guilty of attempt, the perpetrator must take substantial steps toward committing the crime. A good example is purchasing a gun. If you simply buy a gun, you cannot be charged with attempted murder, but if you aim and fire it at someone, you can.
Most people charged with attempt try to show they did not take concrete actions toward their intent to break the law.
In most cases, almost every attempt to commit a felony is a felony itself. These are often punished at half the maximum allowed for the underlying crime, also known as the target crime.
Conspiracy is another inchoate crime. It’s defined as an explicit or implied agreement between two or more people to commit a crime when at least one person takes steps to further the crime. This vague definition has led to criticisms that people can be punished for what they say and not what they do. Still, conspiracy is a crime that continues to be charged and tried in court, and often to quell provocative action such as opposition to public policy.
Often people try to defend themselves from conspiracy charges by claiming that the plan was abandoned, the crime was impossible to commit, or that there were not at least two cooperative parties to the crime.
Conspiracy does not have to be merged with a target crime to be charged. The punishment for conspiracy often runs parallel to the punishment of the target crime, which means that conspiring to perpetrate a felony is a felony while conspiring to commit a misdemeanor is itself a misdemeanor. Conspiracy is often punished less severely than the target crime.
This inchoate crime consists of requesting, hiring, encouraging, inviting, or commanding someone else to commit a crime. Solicitation applies to felony crimes in Colorado.
For solicitation to be proven, the prosecutor must prove that the defendant intended the other party to do what they suggested. So a common defense is that the accused simply never intended for the other person to follow through or that their words were meant as a joke.
The penalty in this case depends on the crime that was solicited. In general, it’s often punished with charges that are one class less serious than the target crime.
Don’t assume that because a crime didn’t happen that there aren’t still charges that can be brought against you.
About the Author:
Denver-based criminal defense and DUI attorney Jacob E. Martinez is a knowledgeable and experienced litigator with a record of success providing innovative solutions to clients facing criminal charges of any severity. Mr. Martinez has been recognized by countless legal organizations for his exemplary defense work, including Avvo, Best DWI Attorneys, Expertise, Lawyers of Distinction, The National Trial Lawyers, and others. He was also named one of the 10 Best in Client Satisfaction in Colorado by the American Institute of Criminal Law Attorneys for 2020, and is Lead Counsel rated.