Attempts and Renunciations

Ohio State Journal of Criminal Law 12 (2015): 615-31

28 Pages Posted: 27 Jul 2015

Date Written: July 26, 2015


Sometimes individuals come very close to acting on criminal intentions only to pull back from doing so. These cases raise two questions: How far toward acting on their criminal intentions must agents have to go before incurring attempt liability? And once they have incurred it, should they be permitted to raise renunciation defenses, according to which they contend that they do not deserve punishment because they abandoned their attempts before anyone was harmed? After briefly addressing the first question, I concentrate on the second. Close attention is paid to the variety of motives that might lead individuals to abandon criminal attempts and, in particular, whether a renunciation defense requires full moral abandonment of the agent’s criminal purpose. I argue that it does not, though concede that renunciation ought to be, in most cases, a ground for mitigating punishment, not excusing individuals from it.

Keywords: criminal attempts, renunciation, mitigation, excuse

Suggested Citation

Lippke, Richard, Attempts and Renunciations (July 26, 2015). Ohio State Journal of Criminal Law 12 (2015): 615-31, Available at SSRN:

Richard Lippke (Contact Author)

Indiana University ( email )

Department of Criminal Justice
Bloomington, IN
United States
812-856-6049 (Phone)

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