Can I be found guilty of a crime even though I decided not to do it after all?
Yes, sometimes. In the military there are three inchoate crimes which are “preparation crimes.” In other words, these three crimes are designed to punish someone for taking active steps toward committing another crime. The three inchoate offenses in the military are attempt, conspiracy and solicitation. It is a crime to attempt to commit a crime, to agree to commit a crime with other people and to advise another person to commit a crime. These crimes are not very easy for the government to prove at a court-martial however. In order to prove an “attempt” crime, the government must have evidence that an accused committed an act with the specific intent to commit another crime, and this act has to amount to more than mere preparation. Likewise, just agreeing to commit a crime with another is not enough to prove “conspiracy” at a court-martial. For conspiracy, the government has to show that one of the persons (could be a person other than the accused) in the agreement acted in some way to further the agreement. Finally, like “attempt” and “conspiracy,” proving “solicitation” often requires a specific act. These types of crimes are often debated in appellate courts. This is because they are tricky. For example, the Court of Appeals for the Armed Forces (CAAF) has agreed to hear an appellate argument on October 8, 2013 in United States v. Payne, regarding whether the military judge provided the correct instructions to a military panel for an alleged “attempt” to entice a minor to create child pornography. This will not be the first time that appellate courts have debated the validity of an “attempt” crime. As stated before, these inchoate crimes are tough for the government to prove and if proven there may be appellate issues wrapped up in the finding of guilty. If you are facing one of these preparation crimes at a court-martial or are looking to appeal one, you need someone who has experience with them. Likewise, if you are facing a court-martial for any crime, you need a strong, experienced advocate by your side. To speak to an experienced court-martial and military defense attorney, call Bill Cassara at 706-860-5769 for a free consultation.