Speak Up! - View Question #568
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Question: If you go to a house and find a person dead and you were going there to kill them, would you get charged with murder?
Answer: No. It is important to understand that the law does not punish bad or illegal thoughts. Every crime requires both thoughts AND acts. The legal terms for these concepts in Latin are the 'actus reas', meaning 'criminal act', and 'mens reas' or 'criminal intent'. If you thought about, and even planned, to murder the person in the house, but didn't do it, then you had the criminal intent, but lacked the the criminal act to be guilty of the crime. In all cases, you must always have both the criminal act and the criminal intent to be guilty of any crime.
Murder is defined as the killing of another human being with malice aforethought (which means planned in advance). The criminal act of murder is the killing itself. The criminal intent is the planning in advance of committing the act. In order to be guilty of the crime of murder, you must actually do the killing. It isn't enough just to think about it.
Now, if you had made an agreement with someone else to kill the person and they went ahead with your plan, you would be guilty of both the crimes of conspiracy and murder. Conspiracy requires the agreement between two or more people to commit a crime AND actual steps in preparation to commit the crime. And once you've entered into a conspiracy, every member of the conspiracy will be charged with both the crime of conspiracy and every crime committed by any member of the group.