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.
It is only in very unusual circumstances such as these that the giving of these instructions is necessary.View Full Point of Law
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.