Can I Use Ignorance of the Law as a Criminal Defense in Texas?

When charged with a crime, you may be shocked to discover what you did was against the law. As such, you may try to claim that you were unaware of the laws regarding this activity, thus you should not face criminal liability. However, you may be surprised to learn that ignorance of the law cannot absolve you of a crime. The following blog explores more about these unique circumstances and explains why it is imperative to connect with experienced Houston criminal defense attorneys to discuss your legal options.

What Is Ignorance of the Law, and Is This a Valid Defense?

In some instances, someone who commits a crime may try to claim they were unaware that what they did was against the law as a means of absolving them of criminal liability.

In Texas, like other states, ignorance of the law is not an applicable defense for criminal activity. It is written in the Texas penal code that this is not a valid defense and, therefore, cannot be used to explain criminal behavior.

Though some people may be unaware of the laws, it is ultimately the responsibility of Americans to familiarize themselves with the laws. If everyone could be willfully ignorant of criminal activity, everyone would simply claim they were unaware of the legality of their behavior.

It’s important to understand that, like most things, there are some extraordinary circumstances that this defense can be applied. In some instances, if you can prove you legitimately and honestly believed that the activity you were engaged in was not illegal, you may be able to win your case. However, you must illustrate an honest belief rather than willful ignorance. As such, this would lean closer to a mistake of fact instead of ignorance of the law.

For example, if you take a laptop from a coffee shop, you cannot claim that you didn’t know what you were doing was illegal. However, if you took a laptop and mistook it for yours, you can use this as a defense, as this is simply a mistake of fact. This is because you did not have the intent to steal the laptop. After all, you honestly believed it to be yours.

What Should I Do if I Unknowingly Committed a Crime?

If charged with a crime for something you did not know was illegal or did not intend to commit, it is imperative to proceed with caution. If arrested, invoke your right to remain silent. Though you may try to plead innocence and ignorance with the officer, anything you say can be used against you. As such, it is in your best interest to ask for an attorney and remain silent until you have spoken to your lawyer.

These circumstances can be incredibly complex. That’s why you need an experienced criminal defense lawyer from the Gonzalez Law Group to represent you during these challenging times. Our team understands how scary it can be to face charges. We will be with you every step of the way to help you navigate the legal system and fight for your best interest. Contact us today to learn more.