Mistake of Law Defense

Mistake of Law is not a valid defense to a general intent crime. Even if the defendant’s mistake was reasonable, mistake of law is not a valid defense. (See People v. Marrero). The only exception is if a statute proscribing the defendant’s conduct has not been reasonably made available or if the defendant recently relied on a statute or judicial decision that was recently held unconstitutional.

However, under a specific intent crime, the defendant’s mistake of law is a valid defense whether reasonable or unreasonable. (See Cheek v. United States).

Compare to Mistake of Fact Defense

More Helpful Information: List of General Intent and Specific Intent Crimes

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  1. Cheek v. United States, 498 U.S. 192 (1991) | Case Briefs | Criminal Law | MiB Law - [...] argument: Mistake about the law is not a defense to criminal [...]
  2. People v. Marrero, 69 N.Y. 2d 382 | Case Briefs | Criminal Law | MiB Law - [...] argument: The common law has clearly established that “mistake of law” does not relieve a defendant of criminal [...]

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