What Mistake of Law Means in a Criminal Case

The common saying that “ignorance is bliss,” does not apply when talking about ignorance of the law in a criminal case. The difference between “mistake of law” and “mistake of fact” is an important concept for understanding the mechanics of a criminal defense. Although mistake of fact can be a valid defense to a criminal charge, a mistake of law is typically not.

What is a Mistake of Law

A mistake of law is when a person does something that is illegal but states that he did not know the act was illegal at the time. The law does not allow this person to escape criminal liability with this excuse, except for very rare exceptions. The underlying expectation is that everyone is aware of the law of the land and cannot plead ignorance of the law as an excuse for criminal activity. These are some of the rare exceptions where a mistake of law defense may apply. It is important to note that these exceptions may not apply in all jurisdictions, which is why it is recommended to consult with an attorney if you have been charged with a crime.

Reversed Court Decisions

If the defendant can prove that he relied on information from the government, and in particular a court decision that was overturned before the defendant committed the illegal act, then a mistake of law defense may apply.

Specific Intent Requirements

This situation typically involves violations of the tax code, such as willfully filing a false income tax return. Because of the complex nature of the tax code and the requirement that the defendant understand that he was violating the code at the time of the filing, proving that you had no knowledge of the requirement or misunderstood its application, can be a valid defense for a tax code violation.


Conspiracy means that the defendant was involved with a group of people that intended to work together to commit and illegal act. The crime of conspiracy requires that the defendant understand that the ultimately activity was illegal, so if the defendant can prove he had no knowledge of that, then he may have a valid defense.

While there are other scenarios where a mistake of law defense may apply, this is an extremely limited defense, which must be proven by the defendant in order to excuse him from liability of a crime. It is important to consult with an attorney if you think any of these situations may apply to you.

Is DNA Evidence Living Up To Its Promise?

For years, DNA evidence has been considered the decisive factor in forensic cases. On many occasions DNA has proven suspects guilty or helped to prove their innocence. With so much in the news lately about DNA evidence, we had to ask: is it living up to its promise? With all the publicity surrounding the Making a Murderer documentary regarding the convictions of Steve Avery, one certainly cannot dismiss that this once powerful piece of evidence is suddenly back under the microscope.

What is DNA

DNA is the code that determines a person’s physical attributes, such as hair and eye color. During a criminal investigation, DNA samples are collected and analyzed. These DNA samples are then compared to the DNA samples of possible suspects. If the DNA collected at the crime scene matches the DNA of a suspect, the samples are deemed “quality”. The sample is then used as evidence, and the suspect convicted for the crime.

Is DNA Evidence Reliable

DNA evidence may not be as reliable as once believed. For example, in the case of Lukis Anderson, his DNA was transferred to a location he had never visited. While Anderson was at a local hospital, the paramedics who admitted him inadvertently transferred another person’s DNA onto him. As it turns out, the DNA was that of a murder victim, Raveesh Kurma. When police found the DNA on Anderson, he was arrested. The case appeared to be closed and Anderson was sent to prison for a crime he did not commit. Luckily, the truth was discovered five months later, and Anderson was released.

DNA Fabrication

In addition to DNA being easily transferred, it can also be fabricated. Israeli scientists published a paper in 2009 outlining how DNA evidence can be counterfeited, and that it is not impossible to create a fake DNA profile. In addition, if a suspect’s DNA is found at the scene of a crime, it is still not indisputable evidence of their guilt.

With this in mind, we have to ask, do you think DNA evidence should still be admissible in court?

Post-Divorce Checklist

Going through a divorce can be a difficult process. Once the process is complete and the divorce is final, you can finally breath a sigh of relief. However, there are still some more steps that you must take in order to follow the provisions of the divorce. These steps will also help to secure the legal and financial aspects of your life as a single person.

Checklist Criteria

The following is a helpful checklist of the steps that remain after a divorce. While every step may not necessarily apply to you, there may be some of these items that are of the utmost importance to get done immediately.

  • Divide any property as your divorce papers state.
  • Remove your ex-spouse’s name from the mortgage title or lease if necessary.
  • Have a quitclaim deed executed that will transfer the title of property to your spouse as directed by the divorce papers. Your ex-spouse will need to do the same as directed.
  • Be sure that your name has been removed from debts or loans that you are no longer responsible for.
  • Update your auto insurance policy to reflect new drivers or address changes.
  • Update the title for any vehicles that you have retained ownership of after the divorce.
  • If your name has changed after your divorce, notify any creditors that you may have.
  • Visit the Social Security Administration to update your name change.
  • Update your driver’s license to reflect your name change.
  • Change your address on your driver’s license if you have moved.
  • Notify all creditors that your address has changed if you have moved from the marital home.
  • Update your bank information with your new name and address.
  • Remove your ex-spouse’s name from any bank information.
  • Remove your ex-spouse from your credit cards or apply for credit in your name only.
  • Update the beneficiary on your life insurance policy if you are able to by your divorce decree.
  • Keep any employer informed of information they may need to know about your divorce such as court-ordered support.
  • Pay any alimony or child support on time.
  • Write a new will.

While it may take some time to adjust to your new life, the above steps can help you through that process. If you have any questions, it is important to contact a professional divorce attorney to schedule a consultation.