Legal Dictionary

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Legal Impossibility

Legal Impossibility is a defense to a charge of attempt. Legal Impossibility arises when a defendant completes all of his intended acts, but the sum of his acts does not constitute a crime. In other words, the defendant seeks to do something that is not a crime. Examples of Legal Impossibility include:

  • Receiving stolen property - A defendant is in receipt of stolen property but the property is not in fact stolen. Since the property is not stolen there is no crime committed and the defense of Legal Impossibility would apply here.
  • Going fishing - A defendant goes fishing in a lake he believes is prohibited and illegal. It turns out there is no prohibition against fishing in that lake and therefore the defendant cannot be charged with a crime of completed fishing.
  • Hunting for deer- Assume a hunter shoots a stuffed deer believing it to be a real deer. Assume deer hunting is illegal in a certain state but the defendant shoots a stuffed deer and therefore has committed no crime since it is not a crime to shoot a stuffed deer.

In the above examples, those things the defendant does or intends to do would not actually be a crime and therefore Legal Impossibility would apply as a defense to attempt.

Legal Impossibility can ultimately relieve a defendant of criminal liability. If you believe you have a defense to a crime, consult with an experienced criminal defense attorney to resolve your issue.