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12 Cards in this Set

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Mistake of Law's general rule?
1. General Rule: Ignorance/ Mistake of Law is no defense.
Rationale for MOL general rule? (4)
i. encourage people to know the law

ii. people persuaded to know the law

iii. otherwise compromise function of law as setting objective norms

iv. mistrust jurists too easy to allege, too difficult to disprove
Three Caveats for MOL Defense?
(1) Ignorance of law may be a defense if law makes knowledge of the law an element of the crime (rare)

(2) Due Process may make punishment unconstitutional without proof citizen knew or should have known of criminal prohibition.

(3) Ignorance of law as to be a collateral legal matter SHOULD be a defense if that ignorance negates MR.
CAVEAT (1) Ignorance of law may be a defense if law makes knowledge of the law an element of the crime (rare):

Elements to determine if knowledge of the law is an element of that law? (4)
1. Language Argument
2. Inference from Complicated statute (Cheek - tax law so complicated, legislature didn't intend)
3. Inference from nature of prohibited act as non-nefarious
4. Legislative History
CAVEAT (2) Due Process may make punishment unconstitutional without proof citizen knew or should have known of criminal prohibition.:

Lambert Case key points?
Lambert (failure of ex-con to register in CA)

* Insufficient Notice to satisfy Due Process!!
- Punishes a passive omission.
- Nothing in circumstances to alert D to consequences of his behavior.
CAVEAT (3) Ignorance of law as to be a collateral legal matter should be a defense if that ignorance negates mens rea:

EXAMPLE?
bigamy example – w. general rule “I didn’t know that it was a crime to do this act”; with this collateral matter

Not claiming he didn’t know about criminal statute, claiming that he didn’t know about some collateral legal matter.
Rationale for MOL defense? (6)
RATIONALE:
1. encourage people to know the law (socialization goal)

2. people presumed to know the law (not very persuasive argument)

3. otherwise compromise law as set of objective norms - to consider mistake of law is to compromise law's objectivity; should not allow everyone to decide for themselves what is lawful and what is unlawful

4. In D's head, so too easy to allege; too tough to disprove

5. mistrust juries-worried about juries being able to sort it out.

6. Most criminal laws have a moral base. Most people think these things are wrong. Not going to convict a lot of otherwise innocent people by saying istake of law is not defense, b/c everyone seems to know these things are wrong.
Argument against MOL defense?
Blame requires a conscious choice to do wrong. If D doesn't know his behavior is illegal, then D can't consciously be breaking the law.
Hypothetical for MOL defense?
LARCENY-IZZLEEE

D says, "I admit that I took and carried away the personal property of another with the intent to fucking steal, but I didn't know larceny was a damn crime."

Is D guilty of larceny?

FUCK YES!
This falls under general rule, that mistake of law is no defense.
Bryan Case - MOL Significance?

Bryan - D sells firearms without a license, purchases through straw dealers, files off serial numbers, and sells them in bad neighborhoods.
Federal firearm statute requires D to "willfully" sell firearms, which is interpreted to mean D must have some knowledge that his actions are illegal, in some general way.

Even though D does not know about the specific requirement to have a license to sell firearms, he is aware that his behavior is illegal in some way.


Most cases where this caveat applies require knowledge about the specific statute

TWO MORE CASE EXAMPLES? (click next)


Ratzlaf - money allocation to avoid gov't scrutiny (< $10,000 increments-otherwise innocent behavior)

Cheek - tax statute (complicated)
Caveat #2: Due process may make punishment unconstitutional without proof D knew or should have known of criminal prohibition ("fundamentally unfair"-very few cases fall in this category).

WHEN IS NOTICE REQUIRED? (2)
(1) In acts of omission, for seemingly innocent behavior, D must have sufficient notice.

Don't want a trap for the unwary.

(2) In acts of commission, the act itself typically acts as notice.

D should be alert for his own actions

HYPO: Shipping grenades without label is unlawful. Gov't not required to give notice, because when you put grenades in box, you should know yourself that you might be doing something wrong
MPC MOL CAVEAT?
Caveat #4: ignorance/mistake of law may be a defense when D has relied on an official statement of the law, later determined to be invalid, contained in statute, court opinion, administrative regulation or interpretation by one charged with duty of interpreting the law (MPC 2.04(3))