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What is the difference between rape and attempted rape?

In our last post, we mentioned a case in which a Maryland man was acquitted on a charge of attempted rape. In that case, the victim claimed that the man had attempted to sexually assault her, though there was not enough evidence to support a conviction.

In the world of criminal law, crimes of attempt are generally considered to have occurred when it can be proven that the defendant had actual intent to commit the crime in question and took active steps to compete the crime. The obvious difference between rape and attempted rape, then, is that the defendant actually carried out the crime in the former situation, but did not complete the crime, for whatever reason, in the latter situation. 

From the standpoint of proving attempt, prosecutors have to establish the defendant’s intention to carry out the crime, in this case rape. Prosecutors must also be able to show that the defendant went beyond mere preparation for the crime. Proving intent to carry out the crime can be a challenge for prosecutors, and an opportunity for defense attorney to identify weak evidence. Because the crime often isn’t actually carried out in cases where prosecutors are seeking charges of attempt, proving that the defendant intended to carry out the crime can be tricky business, and a skilled defense attorney has the task of ensuring that prosecutors don’t take advantage of ambiguous evidence. 

Another difference between a charge of rape and attempted rape would be the penalties, which vary depending on the circumstances of the case. Though the maximum penalties are the same for rape and attempted rape, judges are not bound to impose the same penalties and often do not.

Those who are facing charges for a crime of attempt, of course, should always work with an experienced attorney to ensure they have put their best foot forward in court and have a solid strategy for defense. 

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