Laws are changing all the time, and they often vary from place to place. You could be out on the town enjoying the day with your friends and committing a crime without even knowing it. Most of the time, ignorance of the law is not an excuse for unlawful behavior. California does not recognize ignorance of the law as an excuse for criminal activity. However, there are situations when not knowing the law may be a valid legal defense.
An experienced criminal defense lawyer may be able to successfully argue that in these situations, not knowing the law is a defense. It’s crucial to understand that you can’t always claim to be unaware of the law to avoid prosecution. Your defense attorney can advise you as to whether the defense of ignorance of the law will be an effective one based on the specific facts of your case.
When Is Ignorance of the Law a Valid Legal Defense in California?
In relatively few situations, legal ignorance can be used as a defense. Usually, a person doesn’t need to know that what they are doing is against the law for them to be convicted of a crime. However, there are certain situations where a crime can be excluded from this rule. In some cases, the prosecution may need to show that you were aware of the crime in question.
When a Law Is Newly Enacted
Ignorance might be a defense if you accidentally broke a new law that hasn’t been extensively publicized or known. When a law is newly enacted, the general public may not have had enough time to learn about it yet. This unawareness is especially relevant if the new law makes actions that are acceptable elsewhere illegal.
When the Crime in Question Is a Specific Intent Crime
The prosecution must establish beyond a reasonable doubt that the defendant meant to commit a specific wrongful act to secure a conviction. Also, each specific intent crime requires a particular mental state to be present for the defendant to be guilty. If the individual who committed the act did not know it was illegal, it could be a plausible defense of ignorance.
When Local and State Traffic Laws Conflict With Each Other
Depending on the state and the city, traffic laws could vary. To alert people to the different restrictions in a specific area, signs and notices are typically posted. Ignorance of the law may be an acceptable defense in court if a particular act is illegal in that location but there are no signs warning people of the danger.
Discuss Your Case With a Knowledgeable California Criminal Defense Attorney
When you are under investigation for a crime that requires intent, you should think about having an accomplished criminal defense attorney on your side. Your defense attorney might be able to make the case that you lacked the specific intent required by the law to be found guilty based on their years of expertise handling different criminal cases.
Attorney Dod has more than a decade of experience practicing criminal defense law and has worked on thousands of criminal cases. Dod Law, APC has developed numerous effective criminal defense strategies for cases like these. We have helped disprove allegations against our clients and do everything in our power to protect their rights. You shouldn’t have to deal with the fallout from accusations that don’t accurately reflect reality. To schedule a free consultation right away, call our firm at (619) 814-5110, or submit our online form.