Willful blindness describes a situation where a person intentionally avoids learning of facts or occurrences so as to avoid criminal or civil liability.  An example of this would be a case where someone transporting illegal drugs tries to claim innocence by not looking in the package and thus not knowing that he was transporting drugs.  

To establish willful blindness, the prosecution must usually establish two claims:

  • The defendant was aware of a high probability of illegal conduct;
  • The defendant purposefully planned to avoid learning of the illegal conduct.

How Is Willful Blindness Treated?

In today’s legal system, a person usually must be found to have some kind of mental culpability for the crime before he can be punished.  Willful blindness establishes this mental culpability.  Willful blindness thus negates any defenses that the defendant did not have the required intent to commit the crime, or even know that he was committing the crime.  

The justification behind the idea of willful blindness is that an individual who strongly suspects that he is taking part in illegal activities and goes out of his way to ensure that he does not learn any specifics is just as morally blameworthy as one who already knows the specifics.  People cannot escape liability by refusing to learn what they are doing or why.

Do I Need a Lawyer?

If you have been charged with a crime, you should consult an experienced criminal defense attorney immediately.  The rules regarding intent and all aspects of criminal law can be very complex and differ from state to state.  An attorney near you can advise you of your rights and defenses, and represent you in court.