Is Ignorance of the Law Ever a Valid Defense in New York?



    arrest handcuffs criminal offense conviction

    In the United States, navigating the legal system can be challenging due to the discrepancies between state, federal, and municipal laws. While you may not realize it, in today’s society, the law regulates nearly all of your actions. As such, it can be challenging to determine what actions constitute a crime. As a result, it’s possible to commit a crime without knowing your actions were unlawful. If this is the case, you may wonder whether ignorance of the law is a valid defense. If you’re facing criminal charges but have not realized that your actions were illegal, it’s in your best interest to enlist the legal assistance of our competent Nassau County Criminal Defense Attorneys, who can fight for you today.

    What happens if someone doesn’t know that they’re breaking the law?

    If you think about it, if the legal principle of ignorance were accepted as an excuse, any individual charged with a criminal offense would claim ignorance to avoid the consequences of their actions. Laws apply to every individual within a jurisdiction, regardless of their knowledge or understanding. The underlying assumption is that laws have been made known and accessible to the public.

    Generally, there is no requirement that an individual has to know that their actions are illegal to be convicted of a crime. For instance, a driver doesn’t need to know that their blood alcohol content was above 0.08% while they were driving to be convicted of driving while under the influence (DUI). Nevertheless, some statutes prohibit knowingly violating the law. Certain crimes require meeting different elements. Therefore, most cases don’t make exceptions for individuals who don’t know their actions were illegal and they will bear the full extent of consequences for their actions.

    When can ignorance of the law be presented as a legitimate defense in New York?

    Typically, ignorance of the law is not a valid defense. However, there are exceptions to the rule. In limited circumstances, ignorance of the law can be used as a defense. Ignorance of the law as a defense strategy may apply if the alleged crime requires you to have specific intent. When this is the case, to pursue charges, the prosecution must prove that you knew that your actions were illegal. Therefore, you may be able to assert your ignorance as a defense if the criminal charges you’re facing require you to act willfully or intentionally.

    Furthermore, when a law has just been passed, it must be made known to the general public, and individuals must have enough time to become aware of it. If you unknowingly violated a brand new law that has not been adequately publicized, you may be able to asset ignorance as a valid defense.

    If you’re accused of breaking a law you didn’t know existed, please don’t hesitate to contact a skilled attorney from the legal team at Grunwald & Seman, P.C. Our firm is prepared to defend your rights and interests.

    Free Consultation - 24/7 Service

    Recent Blogs & Articles