Skip links

Mistake of Fact and Mistake of Law in Jurisprudence

Suppose a bookseller agrees to sell a copy of a Virginia Woolf novel signed by the late author. In addition, the buyer is precisely interested in buying the book, because it contains Woolf`s signature. The seller who sells the book knows that the book is selling at a very high price with this authentic signature. Later, it turns out that the signature was indeed forged and neither the seller nor the buyer knew about the forgery, it would be a factual error, and the buyer has the right to return the book and get his money back. This example concerns mutual error or an essential fact that is false by both parties. Mistakenly believed that killing a fetus in the womb is not a criminal offense, it would not be responsible. The general rule at common law and in law is that “ignorance of the law or an error of law is not a defence to prosecution.” In some cases, however, courts have held that if knowledge of a law or intent to break a law is an essential element of a crime, a defendant may use good faith ignorance as a defence: Nevertheless, the defence still applies in some cases. To be effective, the misunderstanding or error of the law must be: a factual error is a defence only if it denies an essential element of the crime. Every crime has elements that the government must prove to convict you. For example, an element of theft is that you must intend to permanently deprive the owner of his property. If your factual error causes this or any other element to be present, you have a defence and cannot be convicted.

Factual errors occur when an accused has misunderstood a fact that denies an element of the crime. For example, if a person is accused of theft, but believes that the property they took rightfully belonged to them, this misunderstanding denies any intention to deprive someone else of the property. However, an important caveat is that this factual error must be honest and reasonable. Thus, a defendant cannot later claim that he was wrong, even though he does know the situation. Similarly, the error must be one that seems reasonable to a judge or jury. If the same person was repeatedly told that the property did not belong to him and that he could not take it, it would no longer be reasonable for him to mistakenly believe that he can legally take the property. An error of fact may constitute an exception in the reduction or elimination of the person`s liability. A person cannot escape responsibility for intentional mistakes. An accused may argue that he or she never intended to commit the crime. The criminal act that occurred as a result of the error of fact according to the requirements of the situation or misunderstanding. Such an exception is permitted only if there is an error of fact, but the error of law is not considered a defence.

An error that involves ignorance of the law is called an “error of law,” and an error that involves ignorance of the facts is called an “error of facts.” An error of fact and an error of law can be an effective defence to a crime. Here, Joe may be able to use a factual error as a defense to contest the charges. The facts tend to support the idea that Joe had a reasonable, albeit false, belief that Lisa consented to sex. This includes the following facts: In this approach, error of law is never a defense, as it is assumed that everyone knows the law of the country in which they reside. Error of fact may be considered a defence in certain cases if the act is committed in the following cases: In this case, the person was charged under the Immigration Act 1971 because he had stayed beyond the time limit by taking leave. Here, he cannot invoke the defence, that is to say, an error of law. An error of fact as a defence applies to various crimes. If the accused can prove that he committed the act on the basis of an error of fact or that he misunderstood a fact that denies an element of the crime.

“Error of fact” refers to a legal defense in which a defendant proves: In this case, the defendant`s conviction was overturned by the court. Despite the fact that the act that created them did not mention mens rea, the crime required knowledge. The Court went on to say that, although there is a presumption that mens rea or malicious intent or knowledge of the illegality of an act is an essential element of any crime, this presumption can be replaced either by the wording of the law establishing the offence or by the object in question. And both must be taken into account. An error is often described as an error caused by unconscious ignorance of a past or present material event or circumstance, or a belief in the present existence of a material event that does not exist, or a belief in the past existence of a material event that does not exist, rather than by the person making the error. by neglecting a legal obligation. A is 17 years old to buy wine in the wine shop. B, the owner of the store honestly believed that A was over 18 years old and that according to the law 18+ people can legally have wine. C, a police officer, caught B for illegally selling wine to a child. Here, B can exploit the flaw because he honestly believes that A is 18+.

For more information on factual errors, see this article from the George Mason University Law Review, this article from the Law and Philosophy Journal, and this article from the DePaul Law Review. The vast majority of law enforcement in the United States is conducted by the various states in accordance with the laws of that state. Historically, states (with the partial exception of Louisiana civil law) applied common law rules of mens rea, similar to those that existed in England, but over time the American understanding of common law mens rea differed from that of English law and from each other. From the late 1950s to the early 1960s, the common law of men was widely recognized as a slippery, vague and confusing mess. [8] This is one of the many factors that led to the development of the Model Penal Code. Factual errors can apply to a variety of crimes. Some crimes may show that a factual error is a defence. Otherwise, if the defendant can prove that the error reasonably denied an element of the crime, the defense is generally considered applicable and relieves the defendant of liability. An error of fact may be used as a defence to avoid liability by not invoking any Mensrea; However, it must be true, reasonable and authentic. On the other hand, an error of law is usually not an excuse. With the exception of children, madmen and lunatics, it is assumed that everyone knows and understands the law of the nation.

There are other unusual exceptions to this rule. On the other hand, if a person commits an act that they honestly believe to be lawful, a factual error can be used as a defense. An error of law can be used to defend against criminal charges in some extremely limited cases. An error of law may be invoked as a defence in the following situations: an error of fact is considered a valid defence, while an error of law is not. An error of law is not a valid defence, because every citizen is supposed to know and respect the laws of the land. In most States, it is necessary to be able to justify the use of one of the above sources to defend against an error of law. “Error of fact” and “error of law” are two legal defences on which a defendant can rely to challenge certain criminal charges. This defence is based on the theory that the defendant acted on the basis of a bona fide error and therefore did not have the mental state or mens rea that the crime by definition requires. According to Section 76 of the Indian Penal Code, the maxim “ignorantia facti doth excusat ignorantia juris non-excusat” means that a person has committed an act that constitutes a criminal offence under the law, by virtue of a misinterpretation of the facts that leads him to believe in good faith that the law has ordered it. An error of law should not be considered a defence. If a person commits a crime and asks for the defense that he does not know the law, the court does not consider it as a defense.

There are two types of mistakes you can make: errors of fact and errors of law. In most cases, only errors of fact can be used as a defence to criminal charges. However, there are a few selected situations in which a legal error can be a defense. Since error of fact is a defence that challenges the intention of the accused in committing the offence, and since intent is an element of the crime that the prosecution must prove when the accused raises the defence of error of fact, the burden of proof is on the prosecution, which must prove beyond a reasonable doubt that the accused did indeed intend to do so. to commit the offence. If the prosecution is unable to do so, the accused must be acquitted. See Wilson v. Tard, 593 F. Supp. 1091 (D.N.J. 1984). In a false defence, a defendant claims that he or she did not intend to commit a crime because he or she misunderstood a particular fact.