Myth of the Month – Ignorance of Facts v. Law

Confused Mistake of FactThe whole myth of ignoring the law as a possible (albeit mistaken) defense to prosecution is probably now dispelled. By now a lot of people have heard of the old phrase, “ignorance of the law is no defense.” In fact, Arizona criminal law specifically states that ignorance of the law does not relieve a person of criminal liability.

On the other hand ignorance of a fact may be a defense for an offense that requires a guilty mind. See ARS § 13-204. For example, say you are in possession of an item that you did not realize was stolen. This may be a defense to theft, which requires a culpable mental state. However, a mistake of fact does not mean that the State will not attempt to pursue criminal charges. Nonetheless, it is important to know that a mistake of a particular fact can be a defense as it functions differently from a mistake of law.

It is difficult to determine what defenses may be available without discussing the particular situation with a criminal defense attorney. If you are charged with a crime, call attorney Matt Maerowitz for a free consultation at 602-912-5897.

Image courtesy of Master isolated images at FreeDigitalPhotos.net

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