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Punishment

2009

Faculty Scholarship

Boston University School of Law

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Mistake Of Fact Or Mistake Of Criminal Law? Explaining And Defending The Distinction, Kenneth Simons Jan 2009

Mistake Of Fact Or Mistake Of Criminal Law? Explaining And Defending The Distinction, Kenneth Simons

Faculty Scholarship

This article makes six points. First, under any plausible normative perspective, the distinction between mistake (and ignorance) of criminal law and mistake of fact must at least sometimes be drawn. Second, the fundamental distinction is between a mistake about the state's authoritative statement of what is prohibited ("M Law"), and a mistake about whether that prohibitory norm is instantiated in a particular case ("M Fact"). Third, when an actor makes a mistake about an evaluative criterion whose content the fact-finder has discretion to elaborate, it is impossible both to allow this discretion and to faithfully realize a jurisdiction's policy of …