Ignorance of the law is not a defense to crime. But defendant is not charged with knowledge of a penal statute if he is misled concerning whether the statute is not being applied. A mistake of law defense is appropriately recognized where defendant demonstrates that he has been misled by information received from the State.
Defendant was charged with three counts of possession of a deadly weapon by a person prohibited. The trial court convicted defendant. On appeal, defendant contended that the convictions should be set aside since he was not aware that he was a person prohibited. His status as a person prohibited was a result of a guilty plea to a previous assault charge. At the time, he was told that his guilty plea would not prohibit him from possessing weapons. The State confessed error on appeal and submitted that defendant's convictions should be reversed.
Is mistake of law a defense for the commission of a crime?
The court held that: (1) the State conceded that defendant presented a proper and complete mistake of law defense; (2) ignorance of the law was not a defense to a crime, but defendant was not charged with knowledge of a penal statute if he was misled concerning whether the statute was not being applied; (3) a mistake of law defense was appropriately recognized where defendant demonstrated that he had been misled by information received from the State; and (4) defendant had been misled by the State to believe that he was not a person prohibited.