“Impossible attempts” in law (new study)

Imagine this scenario :

A poacher arrives at an area where there are wild deer, intent on shooting one – but it’s out of season, so it’s illegal to do so. He takes a shot at a deer and hits it – unknown to him though, it’s actually a stuffed replica put there by the gamekeeper. The question now arises – ‘Has the would-be poacher committed a crime?’

Such an event really did happen*, and the implications are discussed by Professor Daniel B. Yeager (Californian Western School of Law) in a new paper for Faculty Scholarship, 206, entitled: Stuffed Deer and the Grammar of Mistakes. The professor discusses the concept of so-called ‘Impossible attempts’ which have had a formal, though somewhat esoteric definition in [US] law since 1864. Here are some examples of ‘impossible attempts’ from a previous paper on the subject  :

As described in: Constructing a theory of impossible attempts Criminal Justice Ethics, 5:1, 53-69.

Note * State v. Guffey, 1953 262 S.W.2d 152 (Mo. Ct. App. 1953). The case centered around the idea that the deer which the defendant shot could not have been “pursued, taken, killed, possessed or disposed of” since it was in fact already dead and had been stuffed.

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