Mistake of Fact
  • Specific intent crimes: must simply be honest
  • General intent: must be both honest and reasonable
Mistake of Law
  • Exceptions "to mistake of law is no defense"—see Diamond, p. 211—must always be reasonable. Some examples:
  • 1. Must be published
  • 2. Reasonable reliance on highest court (maybe federal courts of appeal)
  • 3. A statute later determined to be invalid
  • 4. Rely on an official’s interpretation of a statute—a very mushy exception—who is an "official"? Usually something like an attorney general, insurance commissioners.
  • 5. When the extra-special element is that you know it is illegal (conspiracy is one common example).
  • 6. Reasonable reliance on police request for assistance.
How does this work in general?
  • Ignorance of the law not an excuse, nor is an unreasonable mistake.
    • Must use some sort of "due diligence" before relying on the mistaken fact.
  • Only applicable to a general intent crime.
    • Otherwise any mistake of fact that would negate the crime does so.
    • Otherwise must be an honest and reasonable mistake.
  • How does this work in MPC?
    • Allow mistake of fact to negate criminality for mistakes of fact of any lower level of culpability
    • Purposeful/knowing: reckless & negligent mistakes of fact excuse
    • Reckless: negligent mistakes only
Gordon v. State
  • Voted when not actually 21, but relied on mother’s telling him he was 21, and close friend of the family told him this too.
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