Support the Guide on Patron!

Be sure to share your comments in the Class Participation section below -- that's the best part! Also, you can use the arrows on your keyboard to flip through pages quickly.

Use this link to buy the books, and a portion of the proceeds goes to St. Jude Children's Research Hospital

Join the conversation! There are now 14 comments on this chapter's page 2. Ignorance of the Law. What are your thoughts?
  1. Matthew says

    How is this argument compatible with the requirement of “Mens Rea?”

    Earlier in the comic, you asserted that there had to be an INTENT to commit a crime for it to be a crime.

    I’m confused.

    • But that’s not what the section on mens rea says.

      Mens rea isn’t about whether you meant to break the LAW. It’s about whether your ACTIONS were intentional (or reckless or what have you).

      Here, Julie intended to cultivate marijuana. Her mens rea was intent. Whether she intended to break the law or not doesn’t affect that mens rea.

  2. Casey says

    How does this relate to what was covered in the introduction to Culpability? I get that *mens rea* is satisfied (she did not inadvertently plant those crops), but there appears to be some contradiction in terms of responsibility. Why does ignorance excuse the child but not the adult?

    I suppose that the argument could be made that she **should** have exercised greater care in verifying the legality of her actions. Yet there is such a lack of general quantifiablity to what is “sufficient care” that I’d remain quite unconvinced.

    • The child had no concept of theft, or that it could be wrong. Julie knew that growing pot was at one time illegal, and was mistaken in believing the law had changed. If Julie were mentally disabled, and had no concept of the idea that growing plants was wrong, she might be off the hook.

  3. KW says

    Adults are responsible for knowing the law. The only real defenses would seem to be if she can clearly demonstrate that she had good cause to believe it was legal (for example, that section of the state web site had been hacked the day she looked it up), she has diminished capacity (and therefore needs to be in someone else’s care), or the law was basically hidden or suppressed so that there’s no reason to expect anyone to know. Probably none of those would work for the rumored classified laws. Another defense I can think of might be laws which are normally ignored.

    • Except that there are literally hundreds of thousands of crimes. How can you possibly say that people should be responsible for knowing all of that?

  4. Jeff says

    It’s been said that ignorance of the law is no excuse (despite that saying sometimes being false), but it often is a mitigating factor. I remember reading a case in the news a while back where IIRC a foreign (to the US) woman was beating her kids on a public bus. Apparently this was normal and custom in her home country, so when she was arrested and charged for it, the sentence was reduced for this reason.

  5. WJS says

    Actually, ignorance of the law is a very good excuse. The State doesn’t reject it because it’s a bad excuse, but because she wants to punish you for acts which are not morally wrong. When people say “ignorance of the law is no excuse”, what they really mean is “you should second guess your every move in case the state objects to it”.

    This example may be a fairly obvious one (prohibition isn’t exactly a secret) but “ignorance is no excuse” is always presented as a universal argument, that no matter how obscure the law you should have known better.

  6. Keiya says

    But by your definition of crime, no crime was committed. No act that was wrong, bad, or dangerous was taken. There may be a law, but you already stated that’s not sufficient to be a crime.

    (Of course, I posted this same argument on that page… ages after it went up…)

    • Blast! I was doing a mini-comic for my Patreons a while back, about one of the parties that took place during the convention. Not the final blowout, but a fun if totally irrelevant anecdote from one of the soirees. Need to finish that, after I finish this chapter (just two pages left, but they’re the long scrolly kind like I did for the slavery debate).

      There are so many entertaining vignettes I found when doing my research for this chapter, and I’m definitely going to illustrate a few more of them for the Patreons as we go. (OMG, their personal letters alone… I could dedicate an entire series just to “Sh*t Our Forefathers Said” — or maybe a book, “Deciphering 18th-Century Penmanship for Fun and Profit!” — I need a rich foundation to back this comic so I don’t need to do “work” work all the time…)

  7. Chuck says

    Isnt this ignorance or mistake of fact not ignorance of the law?

    • She was unaware of the fact that it was against the law. That’s ignorance of the law.

      Had she thought she was raising corn instead, that would have been a mistake of fact.

Class Participation

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *

Support the Guide on Patron!