The Defense of Ignorance or Mistake of Fact or Law

Generally speaking, ignorance of the law is rarely if ever a defense to a criminal charge. However, in a few very limited circumstances it may well be, particularly if it goes to the necessary mental state of the Defendant. This defense is laid out by statute in Utah Code Ann. 76-2-304 which reads:

“(1) Unless otherwise provided, ignorance or mistake of fact which disproves the culpable mental state is a defense to any prosecution for that crime.

(2) Ignorance or mistake concerning the existence or meaning of a penal law is no defense to a crime unless: (a) Due to his ignorance or mistake, the actor reasonably believed his conduct did not constitute an offense, and (b) His ignorance or mistake resulted from the actor’s reasonable reliance upon: (i) An official statement of the law contained in a written order or grant of permission by an administrative agency charged by law with responsibility for interpreting the law in question; or (ii) A written interpretation of the law contained in an opinion of a court of record or made by a public servant charged by law with responsibility for interpreting the law in question. (3) Although an actor’s ignorance or mistake of fact or law may constitute a defense to the offense charged, he may nevertheless be convicted of a lesser included offense of which he would be guilty if the fact or law were as he believed.”

Thus you can see that it is the rare case that meets the above described standard in which a Defendant could expect to succeed on a a defense involving mistake. However, if you feel mistake of law or fact may have played a role in your case, we can review your situation and bring your defense if applicable. We have seen this issue arise in spice cases as a valid defense because the spice laws in Utah are so vague actors have in some circumstances relied on authority that was in accurate. Speak with an Ogden Utah Criminal Defense Lawyer by calling the number listed above on this site for more information.

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