Duhaime's Law Dictionary

Inchoate Offence Definition:

Acts which are criminal even though they precede harmful conduct.

In R v Chan, Justice Simmons wrote, at ¶69:

"Strictly inchoate crimes are a unique class of criminal offences in the sense that they criminalize acts that precede harmful conduct but do not necessarily inflict harmful consequences in and of themselves. It can thus be appreciated that it could extend the criminal law too far to reach behind those acts and criminalize behaviour that precedes those acts. However, although possession for the purpose of trafficking precedes the substantive offence of trafficking, it can hardly be said that it does not, of itself, inflict harmful consequences. It represents a state of affairs in which preparatory behaviour has crystallized into the acquisition of a controlled substance. This state of affairs is in itself harmful to society and the level of harm is exacerbated by the accompanying purpose of trafficking."

In R v Sevillano, Justice O'Connell wrote:

"Conspiracy is considered an inchoate or preparatory offence which is complete upon the agreement of the parties and does not require that the acts agreed to be carried out."

Other examples of inchoate offences:

  • Possession of break and enter (burglary) tools; and
  • Attempted theft.


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