One very common criminal defense often used by people charged with criminal activity is the simple statement: ‘I did not know the law.’ While you may have heard this line used on crime TV shows, it is actually a defense that a Charlotte criminal defense lawyer hears quite often. Before we delve into the effectiveness of this defense, we want to give an overview of the law and this history of this common argument.
Criminal Defense Law in Charlotte, North Carolina
As far as North Carolina law is concerned, every individual who has been accused of a crime has the right to establish a criminal defense so that they can explain their actions in the hopes that they will not be charged with a guilty verdict. Criminal defense is an argument that challenges the validity of the evidence presented against a defendant.
The ignorance of the law criminal defense was first put to the test in 1998 when David Mead was charged with bribing government officials in Panama. In his criminal defense, Mr. Meads said he was not aware of these provisions. His criminal defense attorney claimed that the payments made by his client were legal. However, the prosecution went on to convince the jury that Mr. Meads, because of his position, should have been aware of the provisions and yet went on to bribe officials. He was found guilty and had to pay back $1.5 million.
While this was a slightly complex case when it comes to the law, it set the standard in the judicial system, and a good criminal defense attorney would dissuade their client from using ignorance of the law as a valid form of defense. Since then, almost every case presented in Charlotte, North Carolina, and other states in the U.S. with the criminal defense of ‘I did not know the law’ has failed to work.
Almost unanimously, a reputable criminal defense attorney will tell you that ignorance of the law is no defense to any criminal charge. It is hard to argue in court that you didn’t know that receiving stolen property; accessing someone else’s password on social media to view their personal information, or that driving under the influence of alcohol is a crime. The law is based on the premise that every individual, of the normal state of mind, has the ability to know what would be legal or illegal.
Even then, there are still many people who, when charged with a crime, state that they were not aware that such a law existed or that this particular activity was deemed illegal. But if you speak to a criminal defense attorney, they will always advise you that it is better to provide factual evidence that proves that your actions were not an egregious or malicious as the jury may believe or that you were innocent of the crime completely, instead of simply stating that you were unaware of the law. The law relies on arguing that there is not sufficient evidence to prove a crime against an individual, so your lawyer may feel that is a better avenue to explore for your case.
Not all unintentional mistakes are crimes. For example, if your wife goes into labor while in the car and you go over the speed limit and are stopped by a police officer who issues you a ticket, there is a very high probability that a judge will be sympathetic towards you. In such a case, they will understand that you had an emergency on your hands and were forced to break the law. There might not dismiss the ticket, but they could reduce the amount based on the circumstances of the case.
However, to claim that you did not know that you were driving at 50 mph in a 30 mph zone is not a good defense. In fact, as any good criminal defense attorney would tell you, admitting errors or accepting that you made a mistake may help your case better than pleading ignorance in some cases. The best way to know what criminal defense strategy is right for your case, you should seek legal guidance from an experienced Charlotte criminal defense attorney.
Seek Legal Counsel from a Criminal Defense Attorney in Charlotte, North Carolina
If you are facing criminal charges in Charlotte, North Carolina, speak to an attorney at Remington & Dixon. Keep in mind that the strength of your criminal defense is dependent on the strength of the argument your criminal defense attorney presents in court. Call us today, and our criminal defense attorney will advise you as to the best possible strategies that could be used to ensure the best possible outcome for your case.
Brandon double-majored in Political Science and Criminal Justice at the University of North Carolina at Charlotte. He earned his Juris Doctor from Barry University School of Law in Orlando, Florida. Throughout his career, Brandon has received numerous awards and recognition from his peers and agencies that rate attorneys. A few of these awards are from The National Trial Lawyers: Top 100 Trial Lawyer in 2014, The National Trial Lawyers: Top 40 Under 40 in 2014, Nation’s Top One Percent: National Association of Distinguished Counsel in 2015, Super Lawyers: Rising Stars in 2018 and 2019, and North Carolina Business Magazine: Legal Elite in 2019, among others.