CORE CRIMINAL LAW SUBJECTS: Defenses: Generally



2009 (September Term)

 

United States v. Maynulet, 68 M.J. 374 (it is well settled in civil and military law that mistake of law is generally not a defense to criminal conduct; RCM 916(l)(1) provides that ignorance or mistake of law, including general orders or regulations, ordinarily is not a defense; there are a few narrow exceptions to the general rule; one such exception exists when the mistake results from reliance on the decision or pronouncement of an authorized public official or agency; however, reliance on the advice of counsel that a certain course of conduct is legal is not, of itself, a defense; in civilian practice, this defense is more generally stated as a reasonable reliance upon an erroneous official statement of the law). 

 

(in a defense of entrapment by estoppel situation, the government is rightly barred from obtaining a conviction because the government - through its representatives acting in an official capacity - is responsible for the defendantís inability to know that his conduct was proscribed; in this case, there was no evidence in the record to support a claim that there was an official decision, pronouncement, or interpretation, later determined to be erroneous, upon which appellant could have reasonably relied or that could have formed the basis of a claim of estoppel).

 


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