Samaha Chapter 5 Smith

Samaha Chapter 5 Smith - Criminal Law Criminal Chapter 5...

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Criminal Law Criminal Law Chapter 5 Chapter 5 Defenses to Criminal Liability: Justifications Defenses to Criminal Liability: Justifications CRJU E314 Criminal Law CRJU E314 Criminal Law Spring 2011, Spring 2011, Mr. Smith Mr. Smith
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Mistakes of Fact and Law Mistakes of fact and law are essential to an understanding of the defenses to criminal liability because of the role they play in determining whether the defendant had the requisite mens rea for the offense charged. Samaha refers to “mistakes of fact” and “ignorance of the law” but mistakes may be made with respect to both fact and law and either type can, under appropriate circumstances, relieve a defendant of criminal responsibility.
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Mistakes of Fact A person's factual misperception, or mistake of fact, in a given situation may sometimes exculpate that person for the social harm that has been caused. The rationale for the use of mistake of fact as a means of exculpation is the ethical principle that moral blameworthiness depends not on the facts as they actually are, but on what the actor reasonably believes they are.
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A mistake of fact does not actually serve as a defense to a criminal act, but, instead, may eliminate the required mens rea for proof of the crime. Some commentators, however, class mistakes of fact as “failure of proof” defenses. Whether a mistake of fact will exculpate a defendant, however, depends on the mens rea required for the offense with which the defendant is charged.
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The General Rules If the crime is a strict liability crime, a mistake of fact is irrelevant and of no help to the defendant. If the crime is a “specific intent” crime, the defendant is not guilty of the offense if the mistake of fact negates the specific-intent portion of the crime (e.g., “knowingly,” “negligently,” “recklessly”) If a crime is a general intent offense, the ordinary rule is that a person is not guilty of the crime if the mistake of fact was reasonable , but if the mistake was unreasonable, he is guilty of the offense.
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Ignorantia legis neminem excusat * * Si hoc legere scis nimium eruditiones habes
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Mistakes of Law Under both the common law and Model Penal Code, ignorance of the law excuses no one . Nonetheless, there are three exceptions to this general rule: The Reasonable-Reliance exception The Fair Notice exception (Lambert Principle) The Different Law Mistake exception
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Reasonable-Reliance Exception A person is excused for committing a criminal offense if reasonably relying on an official statement of the law , later determined to be erroneous , which was obtained from a person or public body with responsibility for the interpretation, administration, or enforcement of the law which defines the offense.
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Official Statement For a statement of the law to be official, it must be based upon: (1) a statute later declared to be invalid; (2) a judicial decision of the highest court in the jurisdiction, later determined to be erroneous; or
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Samaha Chapter 5 Smith - Criminal Law Criminal Chapter 5...

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