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Defense of Mistake or Ignorance in New Jersey

New Jersey Criminal Lawyer

The initial reaction by someone who has been charged with a criminal offense can sometimes be “how can I be guilty of a wrong which I did not even knowing I was committing?” This proposition can provide a defense to a criminal offense depending on the facts and circumstances of a case.

A mistake of fact is a defense where it negates the requisite state of mind required under a criminal statute. The rationale for this rule is that an accused generally should not be guilty of an offense which he had no intention of committing.

Ignorance or a mistake regarding the existence of a law is a more limited defense. In order to succeed in this regard, the accused must establish: (1) that he was not aware of the law and the law was not published or otherwise reasonably made available prior to commission of the alleged offense; (2) the accused reasonably relied upon an official statement of the law which was subsequently found to be invalid or erroneous; or (3) that he was diligent and reasonable in ascertaining the meaning or existence of an offense, honestly believed that his conduct was not a violation thereof, and a reasonable person in his shoes would have made a similar interpretation. An accused must establish this defense by clear and convincing evidence.

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The criminal defense attorneys at the Law Offices of John F. Marshall represent New Jersey adult and juvenile clients from offices in Shrewsbury, Cranford, Toms River, Jersey City and New Brunswick. We provide prompt and convenient client service to people in such communities as Newark, Plainfield, Freehold, Eatontown, East Brunswick, Edison, Woodbridge, Westfield, Clark, Rahway, Piscataway, Sayreville, Elizabeth, Middletown, Asbury Park, Long Branch, Jackson, Lakewood, Point Pleasant, Edison, Old Bridge, Aberdeen, Linden, Belmar, Eatontown, Hazlet, Holmdel, Ocean, Sea Bright, Hoboken, Weehawken, Seaside Park, Seaside Heights, Tinton Falls, Wall, Brick, Dover, Jackson, and other locations in Monmouth County, Middlesex County, Union County, Ocean County, Burlington County, Mercer County, Essex County, Hudson County and Morris County.

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