The Mistake of Fact Defense

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Brett Pritchard Law

If you have been charged with a crime in Texas, you need to bring your strongest defense in protection of your legal rights and in pursuit of your case’s best possible resolution. While your defense strategy will be as unique as the circumstances that make up the charge, there are several basic categories of defense that most defense strategies can be grouped into, and one important category is mistake of fact. Better understanding this defense strategy can help you help your experienced McLennan County criminal defense lawyer build your strongest case.

Claiming Mistake of Fact

Mistake of fact, in essence, means that you got it wrong. To elaborate further, mistake of fact means that you formed a reasonable belief about a matter of fact but that the facts at your disposal were mistaken. If this type of mistake led to the charge you face, it can negate the culpability that is necessary for you to be found guilty of that crime. While your mistake of fact may be a viable defense for the offense you have been charged with, it does not protect you from any lesser charges that would apply if your mistaken beliefs had been true.

For Example

Consider an example in which a defendant is charged with possession of a large amount of a controlled substance. If the defendant’s defense is that he or she believed he was in possession of stolen goods (that were not drugs) instead, it may prove to be a successful mistake of fact defense in relation to the possession charge. It will not, however, prove useful against a lesser charge of possession of stolen property.

The Elements of the Defense

In order for a mistake of fact defense to be successful, the following must be true:

  • The defendant made a mistake.

  • The mistake was the kind that could be reasonably made (often, the mistake of fact defense will hinge on whether or not the jury deems the mistake in question reasonable in the first place).

  • If the facts were as the defendant believed (rather than mistaken), the defendant’s actions would not warrant the crime charged.

It is important to note that being mistaken about a law is not likely to stand as a mistake of fact defense. As we have all heard a time or two, ignorance of the law is no excuse, and this adage holds. Only if the defendant was misled regarding the applicable law as a result of a genuinely misleading official statement, document, or legal opinion will this strategy bear any weight.

An Experienced Criminal Defense Lawyer Is on Your Side

If you are facing a criminal charge, you need a robust defense, and Brett Pritchard at The Law Office of Brett H. Pritchard in McLennan County, Texas, is a distinguished criminal defense lawyer who has the perceptive legal insight to help you. To learn more, please do not hesitate to contact or call us at 254-501-4040 today.


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