Articles Tagged with Mistake of Fact

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Mistake of Law

Mistake of Law is rarely a justifiable pre-trial defense. The Mistake of Law” is when a person knows they committed an act, but they did not know the conduct was against the law. It is different between “Mistake of Fact”. There are few circumstances where “Mistake of Law” is a justifiable defense. Arizona does not accept except ignorance, or lack of knowledge that a particular law exists as a valid defense. This is described under Arizona Law A.R.S. §13-204 (B). Not being aware or having knowledge of the law does not relieve a person of criminal liability. Mistake or lack of knowledge of the law itself, is not itself a justifiable defense

Mistake of Fact

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A “mistake of fact” is a common justification defense used to challenge criminal charges.   It means that a violation of the law occurred, but only as a result of a mistaken fact.

For example, let’s say a person is on a business, and must rent a vehicle.  They then have to use valet parking for their business meeting.  At the end of the day, the valet parking attendant, inadvertently mixes up the keys, and brings you someone else’s white car, same make, model and year.  You drive the car away.  The next morning, you are contacted by police for questioning in the theft of the real owner’s vehicle.  You did not know the valet brought you the wrong vehicle; and you did not intend to permanently deprive” the real owner of their vehicle.

Therefore, in the event of charges brought against the store owner, the “mistake of fact” would be a justifiable defense.