Stages of Crime

Every person who constitutes the crime first thinks about it which means he conceives the idea of


The existence of crime has always been present in society but how humanity deals with it has changed and evolved with time. Today, the concept of crime has become more important for the smooth functioning of society as society is dynamic and becoming more complex day by day. In this article, we are going to understand the concept of crime with the help of laws which are prevailing in the contemporary world.


The general principle says that there are four successive stages of crime:

1.Intention to commit a crime

2.Preparation to commit a crime

3.Attempt to commit a crime

4.The actual commission of a crime


Every person who constitutes the crime first thinks about it which means he conceives the idea of crime. However, It should not be confused with the term ‘Intention’ which is used in essential elements of crime as that intention is different and forms one of the important elements of the crime; mens rea. The intention talked about in essential elements of crime is a form of mens rea which is the guilty mind while on the other hand, the ‘Intention’ which is used in the stages of crime forms the first stage of crime and only signifies the ‘idea’. Generally, the crime at this stage is not punishable under the Indian Penal Code as we can’t read the mind of a man, Even the devil himself knoweth not the thought of man and that is why it is absolutely difficult to inspect the mind of a man and punish him for ideas in his head.


The second stage which comes after conceiving the idea is to prepare according to that idea which a man thought through his mind. At this stage, a person starts preparing to commit the crime that he thought before at first stage. In general, preparation is also not punishable because of the simple reason that preparation is a harmless act that generally does not create alarm in society. It is extremely difficult or moreover impossible to show that the preparation is directed towards the wrongful end. Criminal law is very protective towards innocent people and if preparation were made punishable it would lead to the harassment of innocent people. For example, we can’t punish a person simply because he is carrying an acid, although acid is a harmful chemical that can be used for criminal purposes it has other domestic uses also and the punishment should not be based on a mere assumption.


Although, generally crime is not punishable at the preparatory stage there are certain cases where the crime is punishable at its second stage which is preparation. Certain kinds of crimes are so grave that it will become important to control and stop them at the preparatory stage itself. To accomplish this, in certain types of offences preparation is made punishable under the Indian Penal Code. These offenses are:
(i) Section 122 of IPC: collecting arms, etc., to wage war against the Government of India
(ii) Section 126 of IPC: committing depredation on territories of power or at peace with the Government of India
(iii) Sections 223-235 and 257 of IPC: making or selling or having instruments for counterfeiting coins or Government stamps
(iv) Sections 242,243,259 and 266 of IPC: possession of counterfeit coin, Government stamp, false weight, or measure
(v) Section 399 of IPC: preparing to commit dacoity


The stage that comes after the preparation is attempt which is the third stage of the crime. At this stage, crime becomes punishable as it is considered as the direct movement towards the commission of an offense. Chief Justice Cockburn said that ‘the word ‘ attempt’ clearly conveys with it the idea that if the attempt had succeeded, the offense charged would have been committed.’ In English law, an attempt is considered an act that is more than merely preparatory to the commission of the offense and it also punishes the attempt of that criminal act which is impossible suppose a person intended to kill someone and to commit this act shot that person when he was sleeping later it was found that the person on whom the bullets were fired was already dead, here in this case person will be held liable for the murder despite of the fact that the act(to murder a person) which he has done was impossible as that person was already dead.


The attempt is not defined under the Indian Penal Code but this code dealt with the attempt in four
different ways:

(i) FIRSTLY, the completion of an offense and its attempt are dealt with in the same section and the degree of punishment of an attempt is also the same as the completed offense. These are some of the examples: (a) offenses against the state (section 121), (b) assaulting or attempting to assault the President of India (section 124); sedition (section 124 A).

(ii) SECONDLY, the attempt of an offense and commission of specific offenses have been dealt with separately and in a separate section and the punishment for the attempt of an offense has also been dealt with in a separate section from those of the offences committed. These are: attempt to commit murder, culpable homicide and robbery dealt with sections 307, 308, and 393 of IPC, respectively whereas, the complete offence of these dealt in sections 302, 304, and 392, respectively.

(iii) THIRDLY, an attempt to commit suicide is made punishable under section 309, IPC; and

(iv) FOURTHLY, Section 511- attempts to commit offences in general, the cases which do not fall
under above stated categories have been made punishable under this section.


The last stage is the completion of the crime when the crime is completed. When a person does an act( attempt to commit a crime) after the preparation, it has two possibilities, if it is successful it will fall under the fourth stage after passing the third stage which is attempt and if the attempt is unsuccessful it will fall under the third stage only. Crime in this stage is completed and punishable.

The article is assisted by Sridhan Tiwari. A 3rd year student of Lloyd Law College pursuing BALLB.