A mistake of fact defense can be highly effective, but it can also be highly complicated and can make prevailing in court difficult. Every criminal charge is naturally singular to the situation at hand, but getting a better handle on a mistake of fact defense can help you better understand your own defense strategy.
In the State of Texas
In the State of Texas, a defense of mistake of fact is only appropriate when a defendant had a mistaken belief regarding the facts that negated the culpability on his or her part that would have been necessary to achieve a conviction. In order to better understand the basics, it can help to consider two diverse examples.
A Murder Charge
If a person who is charged with murder can prove that he reasonably believed that the gun involved in the case was not loaded when he pulled the trigger, it could lead to a viable mistake of fact defense against the murder charge. (Murder vs. Manslaughter Charges)
The Charge of Unauthorized Use of a Motor Vehicle
If the defendant can convince the jury that the car's owner threw her the keys and requested that she run a few errands in it, it may prove to be a successful mistake of fact defense against a charge of unauthorized use of a motor vehicle. (Read more about the charge of an unauthorized use of a motor vehicle)
A mistake of fact defense is a defense to being prosecuted for the crime in question that involves having mistakenly formed a reasonable belief about a matter of fact that negates culpability. It's important to note, however, that a defense of fact for the charge in question does not shield the defendant from any included, less serious offenses that he or she would be guilty of if his or her mistaken belief had been true.
When the Defense Can be Used
A mistake of fact defense can be employed only when the following apply:
The defendant made a mistake.
The mistake was of a reasonable nature.
If the mistake that the defendant reasonably believed to be true had been true, he or she would not have been in the mental state necessary to be convicted of the crime in question.
Was the Mistake Reasonable?
A critical element of this defense is determining whether the defendant’s mistake was reasonable to begin with, which is the jury’s decision to make. For example, grabbing someone else’s phone that looks exactly like your own is very likely to be considered a reasonable mistake. Grabbing someone else’s phone that looks nothing like your own, however, may not be (even if you genuinely believed you were grabbing your own). Read more: Is It Criminal Intent or an Honest Mistake?)
Reach out to an Experienced Killeen Criminal Defense Lawyer Today
Brett Pritchard at The Law Office of Brett H. Pritchard in Killeen, Texas, is a focused criminal defense lawyer who takes great pride in defending the legal rights of clients like you – while zealously pursuing beneficial case outcomes. We are on your side and here to help, so please do not wait to contact or call us at 254-501-4040 for more information today.