D was a Federal corrections officer. D was found carrying a handgun in public without a license.
D was charged with violating the weapon carrying statute.
D argued that he mistakenly believed that he was exempt from the statute since there was a subdivision of the statute that allowed "peace officers" to carry firearms. (was mistaken because he was federal, not state)
Trial court found D guilty.
Appellate Division affirmed, D guilty.
COA NY affirmed, D guilty.
Is a good faith mistaken belief as to the meaning of a criminal statute a defense to a violation of the statute?
A good faith mistaken belief as to the meaning of a criminal statute is no defense to a violation of the statute.
Public policy requires this decision. We need to encourage knowledge of statutes, not ignorance.
This rule will result in occasional unfair outcomes, but the larger societal interest in promoting knowledge of law outweighs the injustice.
D was merely ignorant of the law, and that is not an excuse.
Mistake of law might be effective in fighting mens rea requirements, but not possession.
The NY code allows mistake of law as a defense as long as the D reasonably relied on the statute or the interpretation of the statute by an authorized source.
Correct not to instruct jury on mistake of law because ignorance of the law is no excuse.
Ignorance of the law is no excuse admits very few exceptions (Cheek - technical area).