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Criminal Law

Inchoate Or Prepatory Crimes: Attempt, Conspiracy, And Aiding And Abetting

Attempt was not recognized in very early common law, but now is universally recognized. It means a substantial but unsuccessful effort to commit a particular crime. It usually requires one or more affirmative steps toward the commission of a crime beyond mere preparation. Attempt typically warrants less severe punishment than would the completed crime.

Conspiracy is an agreement between two or more persons to commit an unlawful act or a lawful act which becomes unlawful when done by the concerted action of the conspirators. Some jurisdictions require an overt act in furtherance of the crime to constitute a conspiracy; other jurisdictions hold that the conspiracy agreement constitutes the actus reus. Conspiracy is separate and distinct from any underlying crime. A defendant may be guilty of arson and conspiracy to commit arson if she conspires with another to commit the crime and then does so.

An aider and abettor helps, assists, or facilitates the commission of a crime by words or conduct. An aider and abettor need not be present when the crime is committed, although she must share the criminal intent of the principal (the chief perpetrator). An aider and abettor who is present during commission of a crime may be charged as a principal; otherwise he may be charged as an accomplice before or after the fact.

Additional topics

Law Library - American Law and Legal InformationGreat American Court CasesCriminal Law - Categories Of Criminal Conduct, Elements Of A Crime: Mens Rea And Actus Reus, Defenses