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Mistake of Law



Understanding Mistake of Law in Criminal Defense

An introductory exploration into what constitutes a Mistake of Law, setting the stage for its legal implications and relevance in criminal defense. Navigating the complexities of the legal system can be daunting, especially when faced with criminal charges. At Leppard Law, we believe in empowering our clients with knowledge, starting with the foundational concepts that could be pivotal in their defense.

Flashing Police Light

At its core, Mistake of Law refers to a misunderstanding or misinterpretation of the law by an individual who, as a result, commits an act that is against the law. Unlike a Mistake of Fact, which involves a misunderstanding of factual circumstances, a Mistake of Law revolves around legal principles. It’s a nuanced area of criminal defense, often challenging to prove, given the principle that ignorance of the law is no excuse.

What exactly is Mistake of Law? Mistake of Law occurs when an individual acts under a misunderstanding or incorrect interpretation of legal principles, believing their actions to be lawful.

In Florida, the applicability of a Mistake of Law defense is limited but not entirely out of reach. It requires a nuanced understanding of both the law and the circumstances surrounding the alleged crime. For instance, reliance on an official statement of law from a governmental entity that turns out to be erroneous might form the basis for this defense. The distinction between Mistake of Law and Mistake of Fact is critical, as the latter is more commonly accepted as a defense in criminal cases.

Understanding the scope and limitations of Mistake of Law is essential for anyone facing criminal charges. It’s not a one-size-fits-all defense and requires the expertise of seasoned criminal defense attorneys to navigate successfully. At Leppard Law, our team, led by Joe Easton and John Vallillo, brings over 60 years of combined experience to the table, offering innovative defense strategies tailored to the unique aspects of each case.

If you’re exploring your defense options and wondering if Mistake of Law might apply to your situation, we encourage you to reach out. Our commitment to excellence and the personal touch we provide to each case sets us apart. Contact us at 407-476-4111 for a consultation where we can discuss the specifics of your case and how we can assist you in navigating the complexities of the legal system.

Mistake of Law vs. Mistake of Fact

When it comes to legal defenses, understanding the distinction between Mistake of Law and Mistake of Fact is crucial. These concepts are fundamentally different and can significantly impact the outcome of a case. A Mistake of Law occurs when an individual incorrectly interprets or is unaware of a law under which they are prosecuted. On the other hand, a Mistake of Fact involves an error about the factual situation which, if known, would have justified the act or omission.

Why is the differentiation between Mistake of Law and Mistake of Fact important in legal defenses? The distinction matters because, while a Mistake of Fact can often serve as a defense, claiming ignorance of the law typically cannot.

However, the legal landscape is nuanced. There are rare circumstances under which a Mistake of Law may be considered a viable defense, especially in complex regulatory environments where the law is not well-known or is subject to recent changes. Understanding these subtleties requires the insight of experienced criminal defense attorneys.

Legal Defense Strategies

Legal history is replete with cases that hinge on the distinctions between Mistake of Law and Mistake of Fact. For instance, the case of People v. Marrero (1987) illustrates the challenges of Mistake of Law in a criminal defense context. In this case, a correction officer mistakenly believed he was allowed to carry a concealed weapon under a law that actually applied only to peace officers. This misunderstanding of law did not absolve him of liability.

Conversely, in State v. McCall (2000), a defendant was acquitted on the basis of a Mistake of Fact when he shot a person he mistakenly believed was about to rob him. The court found that his factual mistake justified his use of force in self-defense.

  • Understanding Adequate Provocation: In cases involving homicide, distinguishing between a Mistake of Law and a Mistake of Fact can influence the application of adequate provocation defenses.
  • Entrapment Defense: The entrapment defense often relies on the defendant’s understanding of the law and whether their mistake was reasonable.
  • Illegal Search and Seizure: A defendant’s misunderstanding of their rights under the law can impact cases involving illegal search and seizure.

At Leppard Law, our team, including Joe Easton and John Vallillo, leverages a wealth of experience to navigate these complex legal distinctions. With over 300 5-star Google reviews, our firm is committed to providing personalized, strategic defense that addresses the unique aspects of each case. If you’re facing charges and believe a Mistake of Law or Fact may apply to your situation, we encourage you to contact us at 407-476-4111 for a consultation.

When it comes to navigating the murky waters of criminal defense, understanding the nuances of a Mistake of Law can be both a shield and a sword. Unlike its counterpart, Mistake of Fact, which often finds a more sympathetic ear in courtrooms, Mistake of Law treads a thinner line, with penalties and consequences that can vary significantly based on the unique circumstances of each case.

In Florida, the legal landscape is particularly intricate, demanding a keen understanding of how such defenses are perceived and the potential ramifications they carry. At Leppard Law, our approach to defending clients who claim a Mistake of Law is both comprehensive and tailored, ensuring that every angle is considered to mitigate the consequences.

Can claiming a Mistake of Law shield you from penalties? Not always. In Florida, asserting a Mistake of Law as a defense is challenging and depends heavily on the specifics of the case and the ability to demonstrate a lack of intent.

Penalties for crimes where a Mistake of Law is claimed can range from reduced sentences to, in rare instances, acquittal, depending on factors such as the defendant’s intent, the nature of the mistaken law, and the defendant’s efforts to understand the legal requirements. However, the default position in most legal systems, including Florida, is that ignorance of the law is no excuse. This principle makes navigating Mistake of Law defenses particularly complex and fraught with potential pitfalls.

Several key factors come into play when courts assess Mistake of Law claims:

  • Intent: The defendant’s intent at the time of the alleged offense is scrutinized. A genuine, albeit mistaken, belief that one’s actions were lawful can sometimes mitigate penalties.
  • Public Policy: Courts also consider the broader implications of accepting a Mistake of Law defense, weighing the need to discourage ignorance of the law against the principles of fairness and justice.
  • Nature of the Law: The complexity and accessibility of the law in question are critical. Laws that are obscure or not readily accessible to the public are more likely to support a Mistake of Law defense.

At Leppard Law, our defense strategies are built on a foundation of thorough legal research, a deep understanding of Florida’s legal system, and a commitment to our clients’ rights. Our team, led by Joe Easton and John Vallillo, leverages over 60 years of combined experience in criminal defense to navigate the complexities of Mistake of Law defenses, aiming for outcomes that reflect the nuances of each case.

If you’re facing legal challenges in Florida and believe a Mistake of Law may be a pivotal aspect of your defense, don’t hesitate to reach out. Call us at 407-476-4111 or visit our contact page to schedule a consultation. Let our expertise be your guide and your defense.


Defending Mistake of Law Charges: Strategies and Considerations

When faced with criminal charges under the banner of a Mistake of Law, the path to defense is not straightforward. This complex legal theory requires a nuanced approach, blending deep legal knowledge with strategic planning. At Leppard Law, we believe that a robust defense begins with an informed client, empowered by understanding the intricacies of their case and the defense strategies available to them.

The journey to a successful defense is paved with careful consideration of the law, meticulous case preparation, and the art of legal argumentation. Here, we delve into the pivotal role of experienced legal counsel in navigating Mistake of Law defenses and outline the strategic considerations that underpin our approach.

Role of Criminal Defense Attorneys

At the heart of any defense against Mistake of Law charges lies the expertise and experience of criminal defense attorneys. These legal professionals are not just advocates; they are the architects of a defense strategy that considers every facet of the law and its application to your unique situation. Their role encompasses:

  • Case Preparation: Comprehensive analysis of the facts, identification of legal precedents, and meticulous preparation for court appearances.
  • Legal Argumentation: Crafting persuasive arguments that highlight the nuances of a Mistake of Law defense, aiming to demonstrate the lack of criminal intent or the reasonable basis for the mistake.
  • Negotiation: Engaging in negotiations with prosecutors to seek reduced charges or, where possible, dismissal of charges based on the specifics of the Mistake of Law claim.
  • Client Advocacy: Ensuring the client’s rights are protected throughout the legal process, offering guidance, and providing a voice in the courtroom.

Our team, including Joe Easton and John Vallillo, brings over 60 years of combined experience in criminal defense to the table. This depth of experience is crucial when navigating the complexities of Mistake of Law defenses, where the difference between a conviction and acquittal often hinges on the subtleties of legal interpretation and argumentation.

Gavel and Scales - Symbolizing Criminal Law

Understanding that each case is unique, we tailor our defense strategies to align with the specific circumstances and legal challenges at hand. Whether it’s arguing for the obscurity of the law in question, demonstrating the defendant’s due diligence in attempting to understand the law, or challenging the prosecution’s evidence of intent, our approach is always bespoke, always strategic.

For those facing charges where a Mistake of Law is a central issue, the importance of skilled legal representation cannot be overstated. The nuances of this defense demand not only a thorough understanding of the law but an ability to navigate the legal system effectively. This is where the Leppard Law team excels, combining legal acumen with a commitment to client advocacy.

If you find yourself in the challenging position of defending against criminal charges with a Mistake of Law at the core, remember that the right legal team can make all the difference. Reach out to us at 407-476-4111 or visit our contact page to schedule a consultation. Let our expertise be the cornerstone of your defense.


Infographic depicting the words Mistake of Law

What is a Mistake of Law Defense?

A Mistake of Law defense arises when an individual mistakenly believes that their actions are not illegal. This defense is challenging to prove since the law presumes that everyone knows the law. However, in rare cases, if a person relies on an incorrect statement of law from an official source, they might successfully argue a Mistake of Law.

How does a Mistake of Law differ from a Mistake of Fact?

A Mistake of Fact occurs when someone acts under a false belief about a fact that negates a key element of a crime. Unlike a Mistake of Law, a Mistake of Fact can be a defense in many criminal cases because it can negate the intent to commit a crime.

Can a Mistake of Law ever excuse criminal liability?

Yes, but very rarely. A Mistake of Law can excuse criminal liability if the defendant relied on an official statement of law that was later determined to be incorrect. Examples include incorrect legal advice from a government entity or a misleading law publication.

  • The mistake must be about the legal status of the action, not its factual basis.
  • The defendant must have relied on an official statement of law that was incorrect.
  • The reliance on the incorrect legal statement must have been reasonable under the circumstances.

Other Practice Areas We Serve

Exploring the full spectrum of legal defenses is crucial when facing charges. Below is a list of additional practice areas we specialize in, offering comprehensive legal support across Florida.

Understanding Adequate Provocation in Florida Homicide Cases The Alibi Defense in Florida
Automatism Defense in Florida: When Actions Are Involuntary Guide to the Consent Defense in Florida
The Coercion Defense in Florida Corpus Delicti
Defense of Others in Florida Explained Defense of Property in Florida Explained
Double Jeopardy in Florida Explained Duress in Florida Explained
The Entrapment Defense in Florida Explained Florida Brady Material and Brady Violations Explained
Hearsay in Florida Criminal Cases How to Use Mitigation to Get a Better Plea Deal in Florida
What is an Illegal De Facto Arrest How to Suppress Evidence Based Upon an Illegal Home Entry by Police

Top-Rated Mistake of Law Attorneys Serving Florida

Choosing the right legal representation is pivotal in navigating the complexities of your case. Our team of dedicated attorneys is here to ensure you’re well-informed and supported every step of the way.

  • John Vallillo: With a proven track record of dismissals and proactive defense, John Vallillo’s dual experience as both prosecutor and defense attorney brings invaluable insight to your case.
  • Joe Easton: Specializing in evidence challenges and favorable negotiations, Joe Easton’s commitment to justice is evident in his thorough and aggressive representation.
  • Joel Leppard: Joel Leppard’s innovative approach and personal commitment to each case have established Leppard Law as a top-rated criminal defense firm, ensuring empathetic and effective legal care.

Read Reviews from Our Defenses to Crimes Clients in Florida

At the heart of our defense practice is a profound commitment to client satisfaction. We approach each case with the highest level of care, a sentiment reflected in the positive feedback from our clients.



Infographic depicting the words Mistake of Law

Ready to Stand with Leppard Law?

When you’re facing a legal challenge, the path forward might seem daunting. At Leppard Law: Florida DUI and Domestic Violence Attorneys, we understand the stakes and how crucial it is to have a trusted advisor and advocate by your side. Our team, led by Joe Easton and John Vallillo, brings over 60 years of combined criminal defense experience to your corner. We’re not just attorneys; we’re your staunch defenders, ready to navigate the complexities of your case with a personal touch and a commitment to excellence that has earned us over 300 5-star Google reviews.

Our innovative defense strategies and dedication to fighting hard for our clients set us apart. We believe in clear, open communication and ensuring you’re fully informed every step of the way. Our fully staffed office is always ready to assist, offering the resources of a large firm with the personalized attention and care of a close-knit team.

Don’t navigate this journey alone. If you or a loved one have been charged with a criminal offense, it’s time to experience the difference a dedicated, client-focused legal team can make. Contact Leppard Law today at 407-476-4111 to schedule your free consultation. Let us put our expertise, dedication, and innovative defense strategies to work for you.

Awards & Recognitions

Our commitment to our clients and community has not gone unnoticed. Leppard Law is honored to be recognized among the best, a testament to our dedication to legal excellence and client satisfaction:

  • Highlighted among the “Top Personal Injury Attorneys near Sanford, FL” for 2024 by Thumbtack.
  • Listed among the “Best Car Accident Lawyers in Sanford” from 2016-2024 by Expertise.
  • Named as one of “Top Personal Injury Lawyers in Orlando, FL” 2024 by Expertise.
  • Awarded the Martindale Hubbell “Client Champion Platinum” 2024, a rare distinction held by less than 1% of attorneys (Martindale Hubbell).
  • Recognized as the #5 “Fastest Growing Law Firm in the US” in 2020 by Law Firm 500, marking our unmatched growth and dedication.

At Leppard Law, we’re more than just your attorneys; we’re your advocates, your guides, and your support through challenging times. Call us now at 407-476-4111 and let’s start the conversation about how we can defend your rights and secure the best possible outcome for your case.

Trusted Content

Legally Reviewed by Joe Easton

Expert Attorney

Legally reviewed by Joe Easton and the content team, this article embodies the firm’s 60 years of combined criminal defense expertise. Joe Easton, distinguished for his profound experience and strategic insight in DUI and criminal defense, provides more than mere legal representation; he pledges a commitment to transform legal hurdles into victories. His method, blending vigorous courtroom advocacy with tailored client care, ensures your case is not only defended but championed with unparalleled dedication and expertise.

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