Bray (Defendant) stated that he had no felony convictions when purchasing a gun, because he was unsure whether his previous conviction was actually a felony.
When a criminal offense is not a strict liability crime, if a defendant does not know the facts necessary to show a criminal intent, he cannot be convicted.
Defendant was convicted of being an accessory to a crime but sentenced only to probation. Years later, Defendant was hired as a security guard and purchased a gun. While buying the gun, Defendant was asked whether he had any felony convictions. Defendant believed his prior conviction was not a felony, so he said that he did not. Defendant was then charged and convicted of falsifying his record by not listing the conviction. Defendant appealed.
When a crime is not a strict liability crime, if the defendant does not have knowledge of facts required to form a criminal intent, can he be guilty of the offense?
(Brown, J.) No. When a criminal offense is not a strict liability crime, if a defendant does not know the facts necessary to show a criminal intent, he cannot be convicted. An individual cannot form a criminal intent without knowledge of the relevant facts. Here, Defendant did not know that he was a felon, and his mistake was reasonable since he served no jail time. Reversed.
Mistake of fact is a defense to certain offenses, but mistake of the law is not. In some circumstances it is difficult to determine whether a mistake or ignorance involves law or fact.