Citation. 160 N.J. 93,733 A.2d 1125, 1999 N.J.
Brief Fact Summary. Appellant was convicted of reckless manslaughter. Appellant argued a mistake of fact in that he did not know the gun was loaded when he pointed it at the victim and pulled the trigger.
Synopsis of Rule of Law. A faultless or negligent mistake will allow for a mistake of fact defense to a crime requiring recklessness.
Held. Judgment of the appellate court is affirmed.
No person may be convicted of an offense unless each element of such offense is proven beyond a reasonable doubt. If the defendant’s ignorance or mistake makes proof of a required culpability element impossible, the prosecution will fail on its proof of the offense.
A faultless or negligent mistake will allow for a mistake of fact defense to a crime requiring recklessness.
Discussion. The Court focused on a discussion of whether a charge of reckless manslaughter could be subject to a mistake of fact defense. The Court answered in the affirmative and then outlined what particular mistakes would negate the culpable mental state of recklessness. The Court concluded that only faultless or negligent mistakes would negate the culpable mental state of reckless. Further, if the prosecution proves the mistake is unreasonable, the jury could find a defendant guilty of reckless manslaughter or negligent manslaughter.