Sometimes, a defendant can be cleared of a charge if they were mistaken about some aspect of the crime. For instance, if the defendant mistakenly grabbed a phone that they thought was theirs, it may serve as a theft defense. In order to prove theft, you’d have to show that the defendant intended to permanently deprive another person of their belongings. Thus, if the defendant thought that the item was theirs, there intent was not to deprive someone of their own belongings.
Mistakes of fact only serve as defenses when they negate an element of proof of the crime, as demonstrated in the example of above. Another type of mistake is a mistake of law, where the defendant was in error about a law. For instance, if a defendant purchased marijuana because they thought it was legal to do so, when in fact it wasn’t that would be a mistake of law. Mistakes of law usually can’t serve as criminal defenses.
Mistakes of fact have to do with the facts and circumstances surrounding the alleged criminal activity. Examples of mistakes of fact include:
- Mistakes regarding a person’s identity or characteristics (such as their age or gender)
- Misconceptions regarding the ownership of property (for instance, believing that a property item was your own)
- Errors in identifying locations, street names, and other geographic characteristics
- Mistakes regarding weights, measures, and other measurements
In criminal law, a defense strategy is the overall approach that the defense counsel takes in order to provide legal relief for the defendant. This may include the application of various legal concepts and arguments. It may include an examination of mistakes of fact which might serve to support the defendant’s innocence.
While mistakes of law are generally not considered to be criminal defenses, a proper defense strategy will consider all aspects of the situation, including any mistakes of law. These will be accounted for, as they can often provide information regarding the defendant’s mind state at during the alleged commission of the crime.
Defense strategies can often involve many different laws and legal theories. These are best handled by a professional who can offer you guidance and advice on how to proceed. Hiring your own criminal lawyer can help ensure that your rights as a defendant are being defended. Your attorney can help determine whether a legal defense is available in your favor