People v. Staples

6 Cal. App. 3d 61, 85 Cal. Rptr. 589 (1970)



Where the criminal defendant's intent to commit the substantive offense is clearly established, acts done toward the commission of the crime may constitute an attempt, but the same acts would be held insufficient to constitute an attempt if the intent with which they were done is equivocal and not clearly proved.


Defendant rented an office directly over a bank vault and began drilling from the office in an effort to reach the vault. When the landlord discovered the drilling, defendant was arrested and confessed that although he originally intended to break into the vault, he was having second thoughts by the time of arrest.
Defendant was convicted of attempted burglary in violation of Cal. Penal Code §§ 664 and 459. Defendant appealed his conviction for attempted burglary arguing there was insufficient evidence supporting his conviction for criminal attempt under § 664.


Was there sufficient evidence to support his conviction?




The court affirmed defendant's conviction, holding that given defendant's confessed intent to burglarize the vault, his unequivocal act of drilling constituted direct movement towards the commission of the offense rather than mere preparation. Furthermore, once the attempt was found, it was immaterial whether defendant was having second thoughts as he had already caused sufficient danger of harm and property damage.

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