Mistake of Fact or Law Defense in Criminal Matters

Mistake of Fact or Law Defense in Criminal Matters

The Criminal Defense of Mistake

A criminal defendant may often submit that they never intended to commit an offense and that the unlawful act was an ignorance of the law at that period or a mistake of facts about the circumstances of the crime. We can apply such errors of fact to numerous criminal occurrences, but judges rarely allow mistakes of law as the primary or sole defense to a criminal act.

What Mistakes of Fact Entail

Mistakes of fact are due to a criminal defendant’s misunderstanding of some point negating an element of the offense. For example, if a person charged with theft believes that the item he stole is rightfully his, the misunderstanding contradicts any intent to deprive another person of the thing. However, the mistake of fact must be logical and honest to be acceptable.

Hence, a defendant cannot lay claim to mistakes later when they know the circumstances. Also, the error must be reasonable and logical to a jury or judge. Once the appropriate authorities have informed an individual repeatedly that a piece item is not theirs and they can’t claim ownership of it, then it will be illogical for them to assume that they could rightfully take the item.

Mistakes of fact apply to different offenses. Some crimes may signal that mistakes of fact are a defense. However, if the defendant proves that the shortcoming logically negates an element of the offense, the court will hold to apply and discharge the criminal defendant of liability.

Deep Insight Into Mistake of Law

It is a misunderstood defense or being oblivious to the law when committing a crime. The defendant does not know the law’s position while committing the crime. You become more responsible when you know your community’s rules and uphold them. Hence, this defense only works in rare situations.

For instance, while a criminal defendant can’t claim ignorance that murder is a crime, they can claim ignorance of the obscure aspects of traffic law.

Notably, a defendant can use a mistake of law as a defense in the following four circumstances:

If the authorities have not published the law, a defendant can claim ignorance because nobody expects them to follow unknown rules. While one may be morally wrong in this situation, legal shackles may bind one.

Further, you can use the mistake of law as a defense if you relied on a law that was eventually termed unconstitutional. The defendant’s attorney can argue that their client took the decision because they knew it was lawful.

Also, defendants might escape punishment if they relied on an applicable official’s interpretation.

A defendant could use the mistake of law as a defense if they relied on a judicial decision, which the court eventually overruled.

In addition, the defendant’s reliance on any of the four factors we mentioned above must have been logical, like the mistake of fact. Hence, you cannot claim to be relying on a case from 300 years ago when it is evident that there have been new happenings in the legal system.

It is also essential to state that while reliance on an official’s interpretation may include judges, state, and federal agencies, it does not capture a private lawyer’s statements. It is important to ensure that you obtain legal guidance from a knowledgeable, intelligent, and reputable gun lawyer.

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