Posted by Gurjit Srai In Criminal Defense May 6, 2024 0 Comment

Ignorance of the law cannot be used as a defense as per a fundamental legal principle in California or any other state in the country. If this was a defense, individuals charged with a crime would begin claiming ignorance. Laws apply to everyone, regardless of whether they understand it or even know about it. This concept is based on the fact that laws are made public via all types of sources readily accessible and available to the public, such as newspapers, publications and other sources.

Limitations & Exceptions to the Ignorance Law Defense in California

Although the ignorance of law is not a valid criminal defense in California, there are a few exceptions to this rule. You should consult with an experienced Fresno criminal defense attorney if you were arrested for actions for which you were not aware were a crime. Under certain circumstances, there may be possible legal defenses against the criminal charges filed against you.

Below are some instances in which ignorance of the law may be used as a possible defense:

  • Specific Intent Crimes: For specific intent crimes, the prosecution must prove that the individual charged intended both the act and the specific result of that act. Examples of specific intent crimes include arson, forgery, burglary, or any other crime that requires a specific frame of mind. The ignorance of law defense can work if the individual charged was not aware that it was a crime since specific intent would not be present or clear. However, it should be noted that there is a difference between intent and being aware that a specific act is illegal.
  • General Intent Crimes: General intent generally means that a defendant intended to commit the alleged act, but they may not have necessarily intended the specific consequences resulting from such act. In other words, the prosecution would only need to prove that the person charged intended to do engage in the criminal activity charged. Some examples of general intent crimes include battery, assault, rape, DUI, false imprisonment.
  • New Laws: When a new law is enacted, the general public may not have sufficient time to understand or know about it. Ignorance may be a defense if you unknowingly violated a law that is yet to be widely publicized. The police have a right to arrest individuals for unknowingly committing a crime, but you should be aware of your legal rights.

Call an Experienced Fresno Criminal Defense Attorney

If you or someone you know has been arrested or is facing a criminal investigation, it is in your best interest to immediately consult with an experienced criminal defense attorney to help you learn about your legal rights and options. For more information or to schedule a complimentary consultation with Fresno criminal defense attorney Gurjit Srai, please call 209-323-5558 or complete our online form.