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When Is It a Crime to Plan a Crime?

By George Khoury, Esq. | Last updated on

Everyone's heard the age old-saying: if you do the crime, you do the time. But what about if you don't do the crime, can you still do time? And what exactly would that time be for? The fact is that simply planning to commit a crime can very well be a crime, but there's got to be a bit more than just an idea, or fully fleshed out plan in some scenarios, before merely planning a crime will be a crime.

Depending on the criminal laws in each state, federal law, and, most importantly, whether a prosecutor can prove the intent to actually commit the crime, planning a crime may not be an offense at all. Generally, if it is charged, it will either be an attempt charge, or as part of a conspiracy charge.

Intent Matters in Attempt Cases

If a person plans a crime, it is generally a difficult argument to make that they do not intend on carrying out their plans. However, usually until an action has been taken in furtherance of the plan, prosecutors are reluctant to bring charges.

Often, attempt charges are brought. However, the littlest step in furtherance is all that may be needed. For instance, if a plan involved or required buying black leather gloves and duct tape, then making those purchases could provide a prosecutor with evidence that the plan was about to be carried out. These cases can be even trickier if a person planned a crime, started to carry it out, but decided to abandon the idea before actually committing the act.

Criminal Conspiracy Is a Serious Crime

Planning a crime by oneself is different than planning a crime with an accomplice, or group. Generally, when there is more than one person involved, and there is a plan to commit a crime, then under the law, there is a criminal conspiracy.

In addition to any criminal acts committed by anyone in the conspiracy, a person involved in a criminal conspiracy will likely be looking at serious felony charges and jail time. Also, if you just are just helping, or were planning to help, you could potentially be liable as an accomplice, even when a crime fails to be completed.

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