Stupid Plans and Inherent Impossibility

Gideon Yaffe

in Attempts

Published in print November 2010 | ISBN: 9780199590667
Published online January 2011 | e-ISBN: 9780191595530 | DOI:
Stupid Plans and Inherent Impossibility

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Many jurisdictions allow a defendant to avoid criminal liability for an “inherently impossible” attempt, such as an attempt to commit murder by incantation. What distinguishes the “inherently impossible” attempts from those of defendants who merely act on hopeless plans? It is argued that the difference is not the dangerousness of either the attempt or the actor: the attempts are equally unlikely to succeed, and often the more dangerous actor is the one who engages in the “inherently impossible” attempt. Instead, it is suggested that in incantation cases, and cases like them, we lack evidence that the defendant would take advantage of genuine opportunities to commit the crime: for all we know he would not drink even if led to water. Thus, given the view of guidance offered in Chapter 3, we lack sufficient evidence in such cases that the defendant is trying to commit the crime.

Keywords: attempt; action; means; inherent impossibility; dangerousness

Chapter.  9796 words. 

Subjects: Moral Philosophy

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