Skip to Main Content

What is Criminal Attempt in Texas?

Criminal attempt is a “preparatory offense” under Texas law where a defendant tries to commit a crime but doesn’t follow through. For example, a person could waive a gun at a woman while trying to snatch her purse but is arrested before he gains possession. This is a criminal attempt. The defendant has not yet completed the robbery but tried to.

Criminal attempt is a serious offense, but it’s somewhat unusual in Texas. The penalties you face will depend on the crime you attempted. There are also unique defenses available for this crime. Tad Nelson, an experienced Galveston criminal defense attorney, explains more in this post.

Who Can Be Charged with Criminal Attempt?

Under Texas Penal Code § 15.01, you can face criminal attempt charges if you have the specific intent to commit a crime, and you commit some act that goes beyond mere preparation but nonetheless fail to commit the offense.

Here are examples:

  • Dan decides to steal someone’s car and attempts to break in through a window. However, he’s stopped by police before he can open the door. Dan has taken some act beyond mere preparation (trying to break the window) and had the specific intent to commit the crime. Dan can face attempt charges even though he never gained access to the vehicle.
  • Mary tries to kill her elderly mother by putting poison in her morning coffee. If Mary is caught, she can face attempted murder charges even though her mother hasn’t died.
  • Michael wants to kidnap a child and grabs one walking down the street. The child puts up a struggle, and Michael can’t get the child into a van. Nonetheless, Michael has committed attempted kidnapping.

A criminal attempt can also be aggravated. For example, Dan might have tried to rob a woman by exhibiting a gun. Even though the robbery failed, this is an aggravated attempt.

You might also face criminal attempt charges even where you complete the crime. So someone who kidnaps a child can face both kidnapping and attempted kidnapping charges.

Penalties for Criminal Attempt

The penalties will depend on the crime attempted. As a rule, the classification level for attempt is one level lower than for the completed crime.

For example, if you attempted murder, which is a first-degree felony, then you can face second-degree felony charges for an attempt. 

If you attempted a third-degree felony, you can face state jail felony charges.

And if you attempted a state jail felony, then you can face Class A misdemeanor charges.

Some people are charged with attempted sex offenses. If you attempted a sex crime which would require registration as a sex offender, then you’ll probably need to register if convicted of the attempt. There are some exceptions to this general rule, such as Attempted Indecent Exposure, so call our Galveston sex crimes defense lawyer to review your charges.

Defenses to Criminal Attempt

These are difficult charges to beat. You don’t have to actually commit a crime to get convicted. It’s enough that you had the intent and you made some attempt. Often, people get arrested before they complete the crime but nevertheless can face years in prison.

One defense is you had no specific intent to commit a crime. For example, you might have accidentally bumped into someone. That isn’t attempted sexual assault—it’s an accident. It’s hard to read someone’s mind to uncover their intent.

Other standard defenses apply, like mistaken identity. The police might only have a surveillance video of someone trying to commit a crime, and the person in the video isn’t you.

Texas Penal Code § 15.04 also provides that renunciation is a defense. Essentially, you have renounced an attempt to commit a crime when you abandon your criminal conduct. You must abandon before you actually complete the crime.

For example, you might have waved a gun in a woman’s face to steal her purse but then abandoned the attempted robbery and ran away. That is renunciation, and it’s a defense to a criminal attempt charge. You can’t “renounce” after you’ve committed the crime, however.

Call Tad Nelson for a Consultation

Anyone facing criminal attempt charges needs an experienced legal advocate who can bring a strong defense. At Tad Nelson & Associates, we’ve tackled many types of criminal cases. We have defended people from theft, assault, and sex crimes, and we know how to beat criminal attempt cases as well. Do you want to learn more? Please call our law firm to schedule a consultation with one of our criminal defense lawyers.