Generally speaking, you shouldn’t face charges for a crime that you considered and did not carry out. People often think about doing things that break the law, even things that are as simple as breaking the speed limit. Just having the idea is not illegal, but acting on it is.
That said, there is one key way in which you could actually be charged with a crime that you didn’t carry out. This can happen if you are part of a conspiracy to commit that crime.
How conspiracy charges may work
A conspiracy occurs when multiple people – perhaps as few as two – make a plan to break the law and agree to do so. For this to be illegal, they also need to “take some action toward its completion”. This action itself can be completely legal, but it needs to be shown to further the intent of the conspiracy.
For example, say that two people come up with a scheme to steal money from their place of employment. One of them usually does the bank drop-off every night, so they know that they will have access to the earnings from the day. Their plan is to rent a nondescript car and stage a pretend robbery, where the second person takes that money.
They go out and rent the car, and they set up a schedule for the robbery. On the day that it’s supposed to happen, however, one of them decides to back out, and the event never takes place.
Renting the car is not illegal. But it is an action that was intended to lead to the completion of that robbery. If this conspiracy is uncovered, the two people involved could both face charges on account of creating that conspiracy. They will not face charges for theft, which did not happen, and they may argue that they didn’t break the law at all. This is true in a very fundamental sense, in that they didn’t commit theft or embezzlement, but they still have broken conspiracy laws by attempting to put the conspiracy into place.
This is important because there are cases in which a conspiracy is broken up by law enforcement before it can actually achieve its end goal. Those involved can still be charged with conspiracy, even though they were actually stopped from breaking the law. If this happens to you, it can be very complicated, and you must know about all of your defense options.