In criminal law, what’s known as a “mistake of fact” may be legal defense, while “mistake of law,” is not. What is the difference? And can you use this defense against the criminal charges you are facing? Get answers to these and other questions by reading on. Then contact Law Office of Michael L. Fell at (949) 585-9055 to schedule a free legal consultation and get information about your specific case.
Understanding What “Mistake of Law” Means
Put simply, mistake of law involves a person admitting to committing a crime and then claiming that they did not know it was illegal. This is not a valid defense. The court assumes that the average person should be aware of laws and that saying they are ignorant of the law is not a valid defense to their charges.
There Are Exceptions to “Mistake of Law”
There are a few specific instances in which mistake of law may be a valid criminal defense. However, this puts the defendant in what’s known as an affirmative defense position, which means that they must provide evidence to prove their defense. For example, let us consider a tax fraud case in which the person in question was genuinely ignorant of certain reporting requirements. Due to the complicated nature of these cases, arguing mistake of law may be a valid legal defense.
Mistake of Law May Be Used in Cases Involving Failure to Act
Another example of using mistake of law successfully involves crimes that involve failing to act. One common example is registering for the sex offender registry. If a person is required to d so but does not, then said offender could be held criminally liable – but only if they know that they are required to do so. If the state cannot prove that they did in fact know they were required to register, then the state may not win their case.
Conspiracy Cases Can Be Another Exception to Mistake of Law Cases
In some states, courts have allowed mistake of law to be used if the defendant is charged with conspiracy. This white collar crime involves associating with people who intend to do something illegal. The courts in question have ruled that if the person accused did not actually know that the object of the conspiracy was illegal, then they cannot be found guilty.
We Can Find the Best Defense for Your Case
While Ignorance is not often a valid defense for criminal charges, we can help you find the better defense option. Begin by contacting Law Office of Michael L. Fell at (949) 585-9055 for a free consultation. We will go over your case and let you know what your choices are. We are ready to fight for you – call us now and let us get started.