When you are convicted of committing a crime, there are many serious consequences. However, when you are convicted of attempting to commit a crime, you will also face many serious penalties. Under Virginia law, you can be guilty of a crime even when you didn’t actually complete it. But how can you show that someone tried to commit a crime?
In order to prove that a defendant attempted to commit a crime, a prosecutor must demonstrate the existence of the following two elements:
- The defendant took a direct step toward committing a specific crime; and
- The defendant intended to commit that specific crime.
What is Considered a “Direct Step?”
For a defendant to be convicted of attempting to commit a crime, he or she must have taken a “direct step.” Under the law, a direct step includes more than just planning or preparing to do something. Instead, the individual must have made a movement towards committing the crime after these preparations. You can think of a direct step as an act that puts a plan in motion for committing a crime. Put simply, an attempted crime occurs when the defendant would have completed the crime but for something else getting in the way. However, an individual has the ability to abandon his or her plan to commit a crime before they take a direct step. When they do so, they cannot be guilty of an attempted crime.
Here is an example:
Imagine that a woman wishes to rob a bank. She gets in her car and drives to the bank parking lot. However, someone learned of the woman’s intentions and reported her to the police. When the woman arrives at the bank and gets out of her car she is apprehended by law enforcement before she is able to rob the bank. In this case, the woman can be charged with attempted robbery.
Now, imagine that the same woman has the idea to rob a bank. She buys a ski mask and a gun a week before she is to carry out her plan. However, three days before the would-be armed robbery, she realizes the error of her ways and decides to abandon her original idea. In this case, the woman did not take a direct step and cannot be guilty of robbery.
Defending Against an Attempted Crime Charge
Since a defendant must have committed an act in furtherance of a crime and intended to commit that crime in order to be guilty of attempt, the most common defenses to such a charge are that 1) he or she has not committed an act in furtherance of that crime; and 2) he or she did not intend to commit the crime in question. Another defense is, as previously mentioned, that the individual abandoned the attempt prior to acting in furtherance of the crime.
Penalties for Attempted Felonies in Virginia
Under Virginia law, when someone is charged with an attempted felony, the punishments associated with that charge are based on the punishment for the felony that the person intended to commit. This is also true for attempted murder. If convicted, you may face the following consequences:
- Attempted capital murder. In Virginia, attempted capital murder is a Class 2 felony. If convicted, you may face 20 years to life in prison and a fine of up to $100,000.
- Attempted murder. In Virginia, attempted first-degree or second-degree murder is a Class 4 felony. The punishment can include between 2 and 10 years in prison and a fine of up to $100,000.
Surovell Isaacs & Levy PLC Can Help Those in VA Who Have Charged with a Crime
If you or a loved one has been charged with an attempted crime, it can have a drastic impact on many aspects of your life. This is why it’s so important that you consult with a knowledgeable and experienced criminal defense attorney who can help to walk you through the process.
At Surovell Isaacs & Levy PLC, we work hard to defend our clients’ rights and ensure that they receive the best possible outcome. To learn more or to schedule a consultation, contact us today!
Posted in: Criminal Law