Photo of knife taken by ryk_neethling
In the Commonwealth of Massachusetts, an attempt to commit a crime is a crime in itself. There are some specific statutes that define an attempt to commit a particular crime, such as attempted murder under M.G.L. chapter 265 section 16. Even Swith these examples, the Commonwealth does not need such a statute to charge someone with attempt. Someone can be charged with attempt to commit any defined crime.
There are four factors to keep in mind when assessing if someone is guilty of attempt. The first element is that the attempted actions must be towards the preparation of a crime that is going to happen in the near future. If one is planning a crime for sometime in the far future, actions taken are often not definite enough to be considered an attempt. Second, it does not matter if the actual crime was NOT possible. For example, if one person tries to poison someone else but mistakenly uses a non lethal dosage, it doesn’t matter that a death could not have occurred. That person is still guilty of attempted murder. The impossibility of a crime will not provide a defense.
Another consideration is the timing between the act or acts and the completion. Mere preparation for a crime is not enough to prosecute! One must take steps far enough in pursuit of completion of the crime. This standard will be applied to each individual situation. For example, someone could buy poison and a drink which they intend to use in the crime, but they have not yet made an attempt- the actual attempt would not happen until the two substances have been mixed and intended for someone to drink. At that point, the perpetrator could be guilty of attempted murder.
The final point of attempt is that the crime cannot actually have been committed. Someone who attempts a crime cannot also be guilty of that same crime. For example, it would not be logical to charge someone with both murder and attempted to murder.