Free Attempted Crimes Should Be Punished Just As Severely As Actual Ones; A Critical Analysis Essay Sample

Type of paper: Essay

Topic: Crime, Social Issues, Criminal Justice, Punishment, Law, Murder, Tort Law, Reason

Pages: 5

Words: 1375

Published: 2021/02/25

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Attempted or executed; every criminal sets out with the intention of perpetrating a misdeed whether it is robbery, murder, assault or any other. What separates the two from one another is the one succeeds in accomplishing its motive while the other fails due to one or more reasons. At this point, there arises a demand to answer why if both criminals set out with evil intent does one get more severe punishment than the other.


Let’s investigate what the normal practice calls for. There was a time when tried crime did not reserve any punishment under the English law. Today, however, the British law requires the punishment of intended crimes, but the severity of that punishment is less than that of executed crimes. The liability of the criminals, today meanwhile is decided while keeping in mind a few rules. An attempted crime, in order to deserve punishment, requires the criminal state of mind or what the law refers to as ‘mens rea’, the required acts or the ‘actus reus’ and ‘causation’ which involves the investigation of damage caused by the actions of the offender. This means that where the law takes steps to ensure that the criminal is only punished for the crime he attempts; there is still a gaping hole between the scales of punishments of attempted and executed crimes.

The opposing side of the debate

One very major issue that prevents us from reducing the gap between the punishments of two types of crimes is that proving beyond reasonable doubt the intent to commit a crime is in many cases neither possible nor feasible. Because the person is either caught in the crime or the crime does not progress as planned, there is not always sufficient evidence to link the attempted crime to the felon. Giving punishment, that fits the crime that was not even committed could, in this case, be unfair to a person who may or may not be unjustly accused of an attempted crime. Another reason that validates the current legal system in this respect is that all crimes should be punished in proportion to the harms that they leave in their wake and the problem with crimes that are left incomplete or have failed is that they cannot do the same harm as a complete crime may involve. Yet another dilemma is the difficulty that the legal systems may face in defining the offense that qualifies as an attempt at a crime. It is not an easy task, and many miscalculations are likely to make matters worse.

The rebuttal

According to the British law, the attempt to commit a murder requires the intention for the crime and for this reason; the victim who is sentenced for this intent has to demonstrate high level of blameworthiness. There should also be evidence of a few further steps towards the perpetuating of the crime for which the convict is accused. This rule makes certain that the innocent ones are not accused and convicted of any attempted crime, and, therefore, the argument that attempted crime is hard to prove doesn’t stand reason in the present circumstances. As for the argument, that the punishment should fit the harm done by the culprit, in case of murder and other major crimes, the psychological and physical harm that the victim faces has to amount to something. Not to mention the social disturbances that stem from the fear of in-complete crimes that might engulf the other members of the society.

Supporting the debate

The punishing of criminals is executed for four reasons which are the disincentive, incapacitation, rehabilitation and last of all retribution. In the opinion of many, retribution is the least likely reason for the punishment of crimes. The planning of murder or any other crime for that matter is carried out with the intention of executing that plan with success and if the criminal who makes an attempt at a crime gets a lesser punishment, he/she may not be deterred from executing the same crime to achieve success unless the criminal is aware of the cost that he/she might have to pay. Secondly, a crime that has been attempted especially when it is murder may lead to a scared and wary victim, which means that an attempt on someone’s life may leave them petrified and cause great mental distress. The damage, in this case, is not visible inform of body count, but it does not in any case imply that no damage has occurred. In some cases, the damage done goes even deeper than an actual murder that sees success and, for this reason, the assailant should observe stern punishment. The third reason for the punishment of crimes is rehabilitation so that the criminal can pay for the wrongdoing and be integrated back into the society. The problem here is that a person who has not succeeded with the crime may have no need for integration because that person does not carry the burden of a crime. This probably is one reason why the law is the way it is. This does not however mean that the choice of announcing different punishments is justifiable.

Reasons in support

Let’s discuss a very simple case here which makes clearer the need to reduce the gap between the two types of punishments. Let’s say that a father in a fit of rage stabs his son, pleads guilty to the crime and is then sentenced to serve time in prison. The son meanwhile remains in the hospital in a critical condition. The father serves his sentence and is finally set free on parole. Not long after his parole, the son becomes even worse and dies in the hospital and his offense graduates from being an attempt to actual murder and now he has to serve life imprisonment or maybe even end up being sentenced to death. The part that seems unfair is that what he did earlier had resulted in jail time which he had already served but just one incident which he had nothing to do with, resulted in another punishment but more ruthless this time. The unfair part though is that between prison and parole, the father had done nothing wrong to deserve the second punishment.
Now to plead the case further, let’s discuss the example of a simple public shooting. Whether or not the assailant succeeds in eliminating the targets, the fact that the incident takes place very publically and spreads the same amount of revulsion and terror amongst the people means that the extent of social harm is more or less uniform and whether attempted or executed, both crimes call for punishment that is equal in severity. This means that failures do not entail lower social costs compared to the success and should not require distinction. This step is also quite essential to stop the criminals from making any further attempts because if successful, these attempts could end in many more crimes than the victims sets out for. For instance, an attempt to burglarize may very likely end in assault or any other offense.
Yet another problem with attempts is that they are never meant to be initiated in the first place. The consequences may be different by the immoral intents behind an attempted, and completed crimes remain just that; immoral. Whether or not the gun fires the bullet at the right instant is not a variable that the criminal controls and if a person who isn’t successful isn’t given severe punishments is justified, then what’s not justified is the punishment of the criminal who succeeded at the crime.


At the end of the day, all criminals set out with an illicit motive and all should be punished equally. This does not however qualify as a good enough excuse to punish a person for more than the consequences that their crime results in. We discussed how attempted public shootings and actual public shootings had somewhat similar social implications, and both crimes deserve even consequences. Where the distinction becomes necessary is that not all crimes are of the same caliber and we can for this reason not apply the same rule to all these misdeeds. An effective way would probably be to make classifications of crimes and thereafter give a verdict on the punishment. This does not however mean that the few crimes in which attempted and actual transgressions bring about the same amount of damage should be allowed to go free.

List of bibliography

Schulhofer, S (2002) Attempt [Online] Available from <>
E-law sources (n.d.) Causation in criminal liability [Online] Available from <>
Philosophy beta (2013) Should attempted murder be a lesser crime than murder?[Online] available from <> [21 June 2013]
Love, O (n.d.) Why is an attempt to commit an offense punished? Should attempts be punished as evenly as an offense?[Online] Available from <>
Crime Prosecution Service (2012) Attempted murder [Online] Available from <>
Davis, M (1986) ‘why attempts deserve less punishment than complete crimes’ Law and Philosophy [Online] Available from < >
Kadish, S (1994) ‘The Criminal Law and the Luck of the Draw’. Journal of Criminal Law and Criminology [Online] Available from <>
Schmidtz, D (1987) ‘Deterrence and Criminal Attempts’ Canadian journal of philosophy [Online] 17 (3) 615-624 Available from <>
Gross, H (2012) Crime and Punishment: A Concise Moral Critique. Oxford University Press

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WePapers. (2021, February, 25) Free Attempted Crimes Should Be Punished Just As Severely As Actual Ones; A Critical Analysis Essay Sample. Retrieved July 28, 2021, from
"Free Attempted Crimes Should Be Punished Just As Severely As Actual Ones; A Critical Analysis Essay Sample." WePapers, 25 Feb. 2021, Accessed 28 July 2021.
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WePapers. Free Attempted Crimes Should Be Punished Just As Severely As Actual Ones; A Critical Analysis Essay Sample. [Internet]. February 2021. [Accessed July 28, 2021]. Available from:
"Free Attempted Crimes Should Be Punished Just As Severely As Actual Ones; A Critical Analysis Essay Sample." WePapers, Feb 25, 2021. Accessed July 28, 2021.
WePapers. 2021. "Free Attempted Crimes Should Be Punished Just As Severely As Actual Ones; A Critical Analysis Essay Sample." Free Essay Examples - Retrieved July 28, 2021. (
"Free Attempted Crimes Should Be Punished Just As Severely As Actual Ones; A Critical Analysis Essay Sample," Free Essay Examples -, 25-Feb-2021. [Online]. Available: [Accessed: 28-Jul-2021].
Free Attempted Crimes Should Be Punished Just As Severely As Actual Ones; A Critical Analysis Essay Sample. Free Essay Examples - Published Feb 25, 2021. Accessed July 28, 2021.

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