From a young age, we’ve been told that ignorance of the law is no defense to a criminal offense or charge. But shouldn’t it be? The concept that ignorance of the law is no defense is rooted in the notion that we should know what the laws are and govern ourselves accordingly. But how can we? Every year, the legislature passes more and more laws making more and more acts criminal violations. For years, the legislature was creating on average of 45 felonies a year. That doesn’t include misdemeanors and doesn’t include local municipalities. The number of new laws is just staggering. It is impossible to keep up with. But even if you could, you’re required to know how those laws are being interpreted by the various appellate courts as well. It is simply overwhelming.
It can even prove overwhelming for the police yet, according to our courts, the police can be ignorant about whether was something was a crime and the evidence they seize or gather as a result of their mistaken believe that you were committing a crime is still evidence even though they were wrong so long as they acted reasonably or in good faith. You read that right — if you act reasonably or in good faith, you can still be charged and convicted but if the police do the same thing, the evidence they seize can still come in as evidence against you. We should get back to a different standard — criminal intent. Either you intend to break the law or you don’t. If you do, you should be able to be prosecuted. If you don’t, you should not or at least you should be able to defend yourself saying, “I acted in good faith. I thought what I was doing was legal.” If it is good enough for the police, it is good enough for the rest of us.
Tune in and hear my take.