Ignorance of the law is not a defense. An axiom of law says that ‘a person acts at their own risk’, which is just another way of saying that you are responsible to know and follow the law. And while Yes, I have a crystal ball on my desk, it does not tell me what will happen in the future, any more than a ‘Magic 8-Ball’ will.
As often as I warn my NJ criminal defense clients of these rules of law, it is not uncommon for me to hear them say that it is unfair, because their Mom would always take their word that the ‘didn’t know’ something and not punish them…so why doesn’t the law allow them that same consideration?
The simple answer is that the law requires you to be responsible for your actions. What Mom should have been teaching you was that when Mom asked you ‘Who did this?’ that the defenses of ‘I didn’t mean to…’ does not get you off the hook when it came time for the punishment. You should still have gotten the punishment from Mom, then the forgiveness and maybe a hug. As the saying goes, ‘First the slap, then the kiss’.
In most cases involving criminal activity, common sense will tell you that you shouldn’t do ‘it’…and if more people listened to that advice there would be fewer criminal defendants. Unfortunately, all to often human nature wins out because the person thinks that they will never be caught; or if they are that they will get off easy since they have never been arrested or convicted before; or that they’ll just say I didn’t know you couldn’t do that…’, and get off with maybe a reprimand but not any punishment.
You are responsible for your acts, and the law clearly states that your ignorance of the law or the sentencing consequences of the crime does not matter. To phrase it in other ways, ‘Ignorantia juris non excusat‘ (which is Latin for “ignorance of the law excuses not”). In the alternative, maybe you should be thinking ‘if you can’t do the time, don’t do the crime’.
#ignorance #crime #sentence
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