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Criminal Jury Instructions

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3.2-3  Renunciation of Criminal Purpose (Attempt) -- § 53a-49 (c)

Revised to December 1, 2007

There has been some evidence presented with regard to the defense of renunciation of criminal purpose.  The defendant claims that (he/she) abandoned (his/her) effort to commit the crime before (his/her) actions violated the law.  The statute defining this defense reads in pertinent part as follows: 

when the actor's conduct would otherwise constitute an attempt it shall be a defense that (he/she) abandoned (his/her) effort to commit the crime or otherwise prevented its commission, under circumstances manifesting a complete and voluntary renunciation of (his/her) criminal purpose.

Renunciation is not voluntary if it is motivated, in whole or in part, by circumstances not present or apparent at the inception of the actor's course of conduct that increase the probability of detection or apprehension or that make more difficult the accomplishment of the criminal purpose.  Renunciation is not complete if it is motivated by a decision to postpone the criminal conduct or to transfer the criminal effort to another but similar objective or victim.1

The defendant has no burden of proof whatsoever with respect to this defense.  The state has the burden of disproving this defense beyond a reasonable doubt.  In other words, the defendant is entitled to an acquittal if the state fails to disprove beyond a reasonable doubt that: 1) the defendant's renunciation of (his/her) criminal purpose was complete and voluntary; OR 2) that the defendant took affirmative steps and acts that served to prevent the commission of the crime attempted.
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1 General Statutes § 53a-50.

Commentary

In State v. Kelly, 23 Conn. App. 160 (1990), cert. denied, 216 Conn. 831, cert. denied, 499 U.S. 981, 111 S. Ct. 1635, 113 L. Ed. 2d 731 (1991), the Appellate Court discussed the trial court's use of the phrase "too late to renounce" in its instruction on this defense.  "While the words, 'too late to renounce,' suggest that there is temporally a point beyond which one cannot renounce an attempt to commit a crime, the same words are also susceptible to another interpretation.  These words could also mean that it is too late to renounce effectively an attempt to commit a crime if such a renouncement is induced by circumstances outside of the control of the actor that were not present at the inception of the actor's conduct, which increase the probability of detection or apprehension.  If the words mean the latter, then they are perfectly consistent with the law."  Id., 166 n.4.
 


 

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