Federal Inchoate Crimes Attorneys

Federal inchoate crimes are crimes that include actors who only begin to take steps toward a criminal action, without fully forming or carrying out a crime. Examples of inchoate crimes include:

  1. Attempt
  2. Conspiracy
  3. Solicitation
  4. Aiding and Abetting

Charges for inchoate crimes may be filed in many different types of cases. Some examples of situations where charges of federal inchoate crimes may be filed include:

  • When the accused doesn’t commit a crime but is taking actions toward doing so.
  • The defendant was taking actions that indicated they had indirect participation in a crime they intended to commit.
  • They were involved with individuals who were taking with actions they may not have completed but would have led to a crime.

What are the Types of Federal Inchoate Crimes?




An “attempt” to commit a crime is basically an effort to achieve or complete a crime.  Attempt is may be charged as a separate crime from the actual crime committed. Federal courts have identified two elements of attempt that the government must prove in order to find you guilty:

  1. Intent: A mental desire to commit the underlying criminal offense.
  2. Substantial Step: Making some act in furtherance of the crime.

The “elements” of federal inchoate crimes are the things that the prosecutor must prove for you to be found guilty of this offense.  To prove an attempt occurred the government must show that the accused made a “substantial step” towards completing the crime.


A “conspiracy” is when two or more individuals agree to carry out an illegal act.  Even if the act did not ultimately occur or was not completed, a conspiracy may still be proven.  For example, If Kate and Ryan agree to commit securities fraud, a conspiracy has occurred, whether or not they actually follow through with their plan.  

The government is responsible for proving that this agreement took place. The federal conspiracy statute outlines two kinds of criminal conspiracies including conspiracy to violate a federal criminal statute and conspiracy to defraud the United States.  


“Solicitation” is basically an invitation to conspire.  Even if the crime is not carried out, or the individual does not go through with committing the crime, the act of solicitation has still occurred.  For example, Donna asked her friend, Mary, to agree to break into her ex-husband’s house and steal his safe.  Even if Mary never goes through with the crime, if her ex-husband finds out about it, and Donna may be charged with solicitation.

Aiding and Abetting

“Aiding and Abetting” cannot be charged as a separate crime, unlike attempt — which can be charged as a separate crime.  Aiding and Abetting requires proof of intentional assistance in the commission of a crime.

The Legal Definition of Federal Inchoate Crimes

18 U.S. Code § 1349 defines federal attempt and conspiracy charges.  Federal inchoate crimes used to be a misdemeanor under federal criminal laws. However, this was changed in 2009 to a felony as drug, organized, and white-collar crimes increased throughout the years.

Related Offenses

Charges of federal inchoate crimes may be brought in addition to, or place of, charges for certain other related offenses, including:

Related Offense #1: Coercion and Enticement

18 U.S. Code § 2422 defines “coercion” and “enticement.”  

Section 2422(a) makes it illegal for a person to knowingly persuading, inducing, enticing or coercing an individual to travel in interstate or foreign commerce with the purpose of engaging in prostitution or any criminal sexual activity, or even attempting to do so. Individuals found guilty of violating this section may face fines and up to 10 years in prison.

Section 2422(b) states that if the individual who has been persuaded, induced, enticed, or coerced to engage in prostitution or other criminal sexual act is under the age of 18, the penalty increases to the possibility of a fine and up to 15 years in prison.

Related Offense #2: Compounding a Felony

“Compounding a felony” involves an injured third-party, the victim, accepting payment or the return of goods in exchange for not testifying against the perpetrator.  Compounding a felony can occur when an individual experiences an injury by a felon (being robbed, shot, or having their business tarnished) and then the felon attempts to reach an agreement with the victim in which he tell the victim not to testify against the felon in criminal court in return for the return of stolen goods or type of another repayment. This is a crime because it defines bribery.

For example, Frank stole 15,000 worth of jewelry from Oliver’s store. Oliver agreed not to press charges is Frank returned all the merchandise, repaired the broken door, and did other odd jobs for him as needed.  Oliver didn’t want to report the crime to his insurance agency because he didn’t want his rates to increase. So, he decided to take matters in his hands. What he didn’t realize is his security company would report the crime to authorities on his behalf.

Related Offense #3: Misprision of Felony

18 U.S. Code § 4. At common law “misprision of felony” is when someone knows a felony has occurred, but they choose not to report the crime to the authorities.  However, in order to be charged with this crime today, the federal laws require that the defendant take some affirmative action to conceal the felony.

Therefore, there are four essential elements that the government must prove in order to find a defendant guilty for misprision of a felony:

  1. A felony was completed
  2. The defendant knew the felony was completed
  3. The defendant failed to notify authorities
  4. The defendant took an affirmative step to conceal the felony

Misprision of a felony is punishable by a fine and up to three years in prison.  

Entities involved in detection, investigation, and prosecution:

Entities involved in the detection, investigation, and prosecution of felony inchoate crimes include:

  • Local law enforcement
  • Department of Justice (DOJ)
  • Federal Bureau of Investigations (FBI)

What is prosecution like?

The prosecution must prove that the person standing accused was planning to perform a criminal act, working toward committing a crime, acting in partnership with another to break the law or solicit another to act unlawfully. The prosecution must also prove the person being charged had the intent to commit the actual crime.

Penalties for Violating

The penalties for federal inchoate crimes depends on the crime. Those who are charged and convicted could face penalties of between five and ten years imprisonment.

Sentencing Enhancements

The penalties for federal inchoate crimes are steeper if (describe actions that may lead to a sentencing enhancement.)

Specifically, you face heightened penalties if you:

  • Are convicted of attempted murder, which could carry a sentence of up to life imprisonment.
  • If the accused attempts to commit a crime that’s punishable with a sentence that’s less than life in prison, they could still face a state prison sentence for half that sentence for the actual crime.
  • When fines are imposed to the defendant for an attempt to commit a crime, it will be for at least one half of the maximum fine for what would incur for being charged with the full crime.

If your case falls into one of these categories—and you knew or reasonably should have known that they did—then the maximum sentence will increase to life in prison.

The maximum fine for federal inchoate crimes also increases to half of the maximum amount that the fine would be for the actual crime.

Additional Consequences of Being Convicted

Those who are charged with federal inchoate crimes are facing felony charges.  Felony charges carry with them many lifelong consequences.

A defendant may lose their license to practice their profession and may experience public tarnishment to their or their company’s reputation. There’s also the potential for the accused to lose their business, as well as becoming barred from the industry.

Financial loss is another consequence of conviction. Those who are fighting these charges will experience lost time from work. Then, if they are convicted, they may lose more funds and assets while incarcerated. If the defendant isn’t a United States citizen, there may be deportation issues with which they must contend with as well.

In addition to experiencing financial issues, there’s also the matter of finding housing and employment following a felony conviction. Individuals convicted of a felony must report on all records that they’ve experienced a felony conviction and, under most circumstances, disclosing this information makes finding employment and housing a challenge.

Legal Defenses to Federal Inchoate Crimes

Nobody wants to go to jail or pay a fine—and nobody wants a conviction for federal inchoate crimes on their record.

People may start to associate you with this crime, even though they do not understand the specifics of your case.

There are several powerful legal defenses you can use to fight these charges.

Defense #1: Legal Impossibility

  • One of the defense for federal inchoate crimes is that the defendant must have been attempting to commit an actual crime as defined under federal law.
  • Court case describing this defense:Homelessness Is Not a Crime”
  • Example: Derek and Brian stayed in a store after hours and got locked inside.  In this scenario, staying in a store after hours would not be considered a criminal act – unless there was a clear intent to commit a crime.

Defense #2: Withdrawal of Conspiracy

  • The second defense for federal inchoate crimes is that the defendant must prove that they attempted to prevent co-conspirators from carrying out the crime beforehand.
  • Court case describing this defense: Appeals court upholds sentences for three Twin Cities men in ISIS case
  • Example: Bruce heard about two of his friends planning to rob a home improvement store. They wanted him to participate, but he tried to convince them not to commit the crime instead.

Defense #3: Feigned Agreement

  • The third defense for federal inchoate crimes is that the defendant must prove that the defendant didn’t want to commit the crime and their agreement to do so was fake.
  • Court case describing this defense: Prosecutors drop all charges against Jussie Smollett
  • Example: Greg was asked by Dustin to break into the moving truck. Greg claimed his agreement to do so was fake.

Defense #4: Mistake of Law for Conspiracy

  • Since a conspiracy requires the defendant agree and intend to participate in a criminal act, the fourth defense for federal inchoate crimes is mistake of law.  This defense is available to any defendant who is able to prove that they thought they agreed to participate in a lawful act – as opposed to a criminal one.
  • Court case describing this defense. Prosecutors make bizarre claim against Robert Kraft’s lawyers
  • Example: Jack thought he was going to work with his friends to help them load the materials they bought from a home improvement store. Instead, they robbed the store and expected him to serve as the getaway driver.

Essential and Impactful Cases:

  • Casting a Wider Net: Conspiracy Charges in Foreign Corrupt Practices Act Cases
  • The UN Security Council, Global Watch Lists, Biometrics, and the Threat to the Rule of Law
  • DSS Overplay In Jones Abiri’s Detention By Forcebray I. Inegha
  • The Supreme Court Considers “True Threats” and the First Amendment
  • Open Door to Moscow? New Facts in the Potential Criminal Case of Trump Campaign Coordination with Russia

How These Cases Further Define the Written Statute?

Each of these examples is references that occur in our federal legal system within the past five years. They outline how attorneys have had to work or are working with the elements of attempt, conspiracy, solicitation, and intent, as well as how to prove each in a courtroom. These cases are also examples of how an inchoate crime is one that’s not complete or one where the accused doesn’t undergo a particular action.

How These Cases Have an Impact on the Defense and Clients?

These examples have an impact on the defense, as well as the clients, due to the circumstances involved with an inchoate crime. While federal courts want to stop inchoate crimes from occurring, they must be proven without a reasonable doubt. Therefore, when there isn’t substantive evidence pointing toward that outcome, it makes things difficult for the prosecution to meet this burden, which is a positive for the defense.

Call us for help…

For questions about 18 U.S. Code § 1349 and federal inchoate crimes, or to discuss your case confidentially with one of our criminal defense attorneys, do not hesitate to contact us. Our team of professionals has the expertise you need to assess your case and make recommendations. We’ll provide you with the best representation during interrogation and questioning, as well as when communications and negotiations need to occur. We have local criminal law offices in your area.