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Criminal charges can be filed even if no crime is committed

Just about every person in the U.S. understands that if you break a law, you can face criminal penalties. This can be true even if you don't think you are doing anything wrong, as ignorance of the law is generally not a defense. 

However, it may be surprising to some people to learn that a crime never even has to be committed for a person to be charged with a criminal offense. In this post, we will look at a few of the charges you could face even if an alleged unlawful act was never completed.

Generally speaking, there are a few different instances in which charges could be filed against you that do not require the completion of a crime. 

  • Conspiracy: A charge of conspiracy indicates that you are accused of working with another person and have agreed to commit a crime. However, it must be proven that you planned to break the law and took some type of action toward completing a crime, even if you never followed through with it.
  • Solicitation: If you are charged with criminal solicitation, it means that you are accused not only of intending to commit a crime, but also of encouraging, requesting or ordering someone else to participate. For instance, we often hear this term used when someone is accused of solicitation of prostitution.
  • Attempt: Making an effort to commit a crime, even if you fail or back out, can result in charges of an attempted offense. This can sound very similar to conspiracy charges, but an attempted offense charge differs in two ways: only one person needs to be involved and the intent of the person accused of the crime will often come under scrutiny.

In each of these cases, you should note that it is the preparation, intent or seeking out of others to participate which is grounds for criminal charges. Even if the intended crime -- whether it is prostitution, drug distribution, fraud or a violent offense -- is not carried out, a person could wind up facing serious criminal penalties.

This can be a very complicated and scary situation for any person. If you have been accused of playing a role or taking action in an attempt to commit a crime, you should remember that you have the right to seek legal representation to defend yourself.

Source: FindLaw.com, "Attempt, Conspiracy and Aiding," accessed on Jan. 28, 2015

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