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Foiled Crimes: The Crime of Attempt in Wisconsin

Posted on in Criminal Defense

Wisconsin criminal defense attorney, Wisconsin defense lawyer, your rightsWhat happens when a murderer forgets to load his or her gun or a mugging is interrupted in the act? The person never succeeded in committing the crime, so he or she cannot actually be charged with it. After all, it would not make sense for a murder victim to be able to testify in a trial. Instead, there is a special crime that can be charged in these circumstances, the crime of attempt.

Attempt is a catchall crime that can be applied to most other crimes. This is how murder becomes attempted murder and robbery becomes attempted robbery. However, attempt is a thorny crime to enforce. The United States does not punish people for thought crimes, so finding exactly how far along in a crime someone must be before he or she is guilty of attempt is an issue that different states actually vary substantially on.

How Attempt Works

In Wisconsin, the state legislature has chosen to define attempt in a statute, rather than leaving it up to courts to determine. The statute requires two things for a person to be guilty of attempt. First, he or she must form an intent to commit the crime in question. Second, he or she must carry out acts that show that he or she was definitely going to commit the crime but for the interference of some other person or factor.

That definition is fairly abstract, but fortunately the statute also includes examples. For instance, a person taking a gun, aiming it at someone, and pulling the trigger, only to have the gun misfire is enough to qualify as attempted murder because the person would have committed the crime but for the misfire. Similarly, a rape victim fighting off her attacker also qualifies as attempt, since the victim's interference thwarted the crime.

Attempt also affects the penalties for a given crime. The general rule is that the maximum fine or prison sentence for an attempted crime is half the maximum for the completed crime. However, there are certain crimes or types of crimes for which those rules shift.

Impossible Crimes

One of the most peculiar parts of attempt law deals with impossible crimes. The fact that a defendant's attempt could not succeed does not absolve them of responsibility for the attempt. A man firing into his ex-wife's bedroom with the intent to kill her is still guilty of attempt if she is not in the house at the time. Similarly, a person who believes he or she is purchasing stolen goods is guilty of attempting to receive stolen goods even if the goods were actually obtained lawfully.

While charges for attempt are not as serious as charges for completed crimes, they can still result in large fines and long jail sentences. If you are facing attempt charges, contact an experienced Milwaukee criminal defense attorney today to make sure that the court hears your side of the story.

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