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People v. Bray

    Brief Fact Summary.

    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.

    Synopsis of Rule of Law.

    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.

    Facts.

    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.

    Issue.

    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?

    Held.

    (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.

    Discussion.

    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.

     

     


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