Individuals often believe that they cannot be arrested or charged if their attempt to commit a criminal offense is unsuccessful. The law in New Jersey does not support this view. If you or a loved one is the subject of a criminal charge that stems from an attempt, we can assist you. Our law firm, the Law Offices of Jonathan F. Marshall has a staff of lawyers with over 60 years experience defending those accused of all sorts of offenses. Attorneys are available to assist you 24/7 at 1-877-450-8301. A lawyer is ready to provide you with answers immediately and walk you through the criminal process.
New Jersey Criminal Attempt Law – N.J.S.A. 2C:5-1
a. Definition of attempt. A person is guilty of an attempt to commit a crime if, acting with the kind of culpability otherwise required for commission of the crime, he:
- Purposely engages in conduct which would constitute the crime if the attendant circumstances were as a reasonable person would believe them to be;
- When causing a particular result is an element of the crime, does or omits to do anything with the purpose of causing such result without further conduct on his part; or
- Purposely does or omits to do anything which, under the circumstances as a reasonable person would believe them to be, is an act or omission constituting a substantial step in a course of conduct planned to culminate in his commission of the crime.
b. Conduct which may be held substantial step under subsection a. (3). Conduct shall not be held to constitute a substantial step under subsection a. (3) of this section unless it is strongly corroborative of the actor’s criminal purpose.
c. Conduct designed to aid another in commission of a crime. A person who engages in conduct designed to aid another to commit a crime which would establish his complicity under section 2C:2-6 if the crime were committed by such other person, is guilty of an attempt to commit the crime, although the crime is not committed or attempted by such other person.
d. Renunciation of criminal purpose. When the actor’s conduct would otherwise constitute an attempt under subsection a. (2) or (3) of this section, it is an affirmative defense which he must prove by a preponderance of the evidence that he abandoned his effort to commit the crime or otherwise prevented its commission, under circumstances manifesting a complete and voluntary renunciation of his criminal purpose. The establishment of such defense does not, however, affect the liability of an accomplice who did not join in such abandonment or prevention.
Explanation of Criminal Attempt in NJ
There are three (3) ways that criminal liability may be triggered for “attempt” under N.J.S.A. 2C:5-1. A prerequisite to any of these three bases is that the defendant’s engaged in “purposeful conduct”. To be purposeful, the actor must have intended to commit the crime and/or bring about a criminal result.
Where this exists, an individual may be convicted of a crime based on attempting in three possible ways:
- Reasonable Belief Standard: A person may be held accountable for a crime where his conduct, viewed from the perspective of a “reasonable person,” would have constituted a crime.
- Last Proximate Act: The second basis for conviction for an attempted offense is where an accused has done all that he believes is necessary to bring about a criminal result.
- Substantial Step: The final ways someone can be convicted of a crime based on an attempt is where his conduct is a substantial step in causing a crime.
Attempt Does Not Apply to Disorderly Persons Charges
To be guilty of an offense based on attempt, an accused must have been attempting to commit a crime as opposed to a disorderly persons or petty disorderly persons offense. A person cannot be convicted of a petty or disorderly persons charge based on their attempting to commit the offense.
Renunciation as a Defense
A defense in prosecution for the attempted commission of a crime is renunciation. To succeed in this defense, the accused must establish that his renunciation was complete and voluntary. The “voluntary” requirement is satisfied where the actor has the purpose to change his conduct without any motivation of fear of being detected or caught, or enhanced difficulty in committing the offense. A renunciation is not “complete” unless and until an individual takes affirmative steps to prevent the commission of the crime.
Grading & Penalties for Attempting to Commit an Offense
When an individual is convicted of an offense based on attempting to commit it, the penalties and punishment that applies is the same as those that apply to the crime attempted.