Sideshow Bob, the fictional criminal mastermind from “The Simpsons,” once complained about the fact he was in jail for a crime he never successfully completed: “’Attempted murder,’ now honestly, did they ever give anyone a Nobel prize for ‘attempted chemistry?’” It may be a funny line, but there is nothing humorous about criminal attempt. In Texas, a person may be convicted of a criminal offense that they planned to carry out even if the attempt ultimately fails.
In legal terms, these are known as inchoate (or incomplete) offenses. The Texas Penal Code includes three types of crimes in this category: criminal attempt, criminal conspiracy, and criminal solicitation. Each offense carries its own requirements and penalties separate from any other underlying crime.
“Criminal attempt,” as the name suggests, refers to an offense where someone attempts to carry out another crime, such as murder or fraud, but may not have been successful. Texas law requires two things to prove criminal intent: First, the defendant must have “specific intent to commit an offense”; and second, the defendant must commit one or more acts “amounting to more than mere preparation that tends but fails to effect the commission of the offense intended.”
It is important to note the “acts” of a criminal attempt may themselves be legal. Consider a recent Texas appeals court decision. In this case, a jury convicted a man of attempted theft. The defendant caused an elderly woman to sign a will leaving most of her estate to him, which he later filed for probate. Neither of these acts were necessarily illegal on their own, a Texas appeals court noted in upholding the defendant’s conviction, but because the state proved there was “criminal intent” to steal the victim’s estate for himself, these acts proved the offense of criminal attempt.
Conspiracy refers to an agreement between two or more people to “engage in conduct that would constitute” a criminal offense. Each individual within the conspiracy is guilty if the state can prove he or she performed at least one “overt act in pursuance of the agreement.” A person can therefore be guilty of conspiracy even if he or she cannot be convicted of the underlying crime.
Solicitation refers to any attempt to “induce” someone into committing a capital offense or first-degree felony under Texas law. Unlike conspiracy, which requires an agreement between the parties, solicitation may exist in any situation where one person “requests, commands, or attempts to induce another” into committing a crime. Nor does it matter if the solicited offense is ever carried out or the person solicited engaged in any act to carry out the proposed crime.
Get Help from a Houston Criminal Attorney
If a prosecutor thinks you are involved in any way with an attempted or incomplete offense, you need to take the matter seriously. An experienced Galveston criminal lawyer can advise you on the law and zealously represent your interests in court if necessary. Contact the Law Offices of Tad Nelson & Associates if you need to speak with an attorney today.