Inchoate crimes, which are also referred to as incomplete crimes, are acts involving the tendency to commit, or to indirectly participate in a criminal offense. In the past, several inchoate crimes used to be regarded as minor offenses. However, in recent times, several inchoate offenses are considered serious crimes, and have shifted from the grade of misdemeanors to felony offenses. Inchoate crimes include attempt to commit the crime, conspiracy to commit the crime, and solicitation to commit the crime. Being an accessory or an accomplice to a crime is also an inchoate crime.
Attempt to commit a crime, is the inchoate crime which is considered the closest to actually carrying out the crime. Attempt to commit a crime involves trying to commit the crime but failing to complete the intended actions. Threats and challenges can also be considered as an attempt to commit the crime.
Conspiracy to commit a crime involves agreeing to commit a crime. A conspiracy to commit a crime can be charged in addition to the crime itself. Therefore, a person can be charged with murder and conspiracy to commit murder at the same time.
Solicitation to commit a crime is the crime of asking another person to commit a crime. Even if the person who is solicited does not commit the crime, the person soliciting may be charged with solicitation.
The person who actually commits a crime is called the principle, and a person who helps the principal in committing the crime is called the accomplice. An accessory may help a principle or accomplices before or after a crime. An accessory or accomplice to a crime is also considered to have committed an inchoate crime.
Following are general rules regarding inchoate crimes:
- A person cannot be charged with an inchoate offense and the actual crime at the same time. For example, a person cannot be charged at the same time with attempted murder as well as murder. The person can only be charged with one or the other at the same time. However, conspiracy is an exception to this common rule. Accordingly, a person can be charged with murder and conspiracy to commit murder at the same time.
- To be convicted of an inchoate crime, it must be proven that the person to be convicted had the specific intent (mens rea) to commit or contribute to the actual crime.
- Inchoate crimes must involve some outward action or a substantial step in the completion of the crime. The person to be convicted should have done some act in furtherance of the crime.