I have mentioned in past posts, though only in passing, that failing to know that something is illegal is not a defense to violating the law. The justification behind this reasoning is obvious. Proving that someone did or did not know something is incredibly difficult, if not impossible. In fact, this is part of the reason that in dealing with criminal matters, we require that a person be proved guilty beyond a reasonable doubt.

In non-criminal matters, however, particularly with regulatory or administrative infractions, violations do not require proof of any knowledge or mental state. Rather, those found in violation are presumed to be liable for the infraction.

Mistake of Law Infractions

Common examples of these mistake of law infractions include:

  1. Not knowing the speed limit
  2. Parking illegally, whether in a handicap spot, by a fire hydrant, etc.
  3. Buying or selling illegal substances or other prohibited contraband
  4. Failing to pay sales or use taxes

Keep in mind, however, that being issued a citation or otherwise being accused of these different types of violations may not be dispositive. You may be able to have your liability dismissed if your violation was based upon incorrect information (otherwise referred to as mistake of fact). Things such as a mismarked government sign or other confusing indicator may help bolster your argument.

I recommend taking pictures of the scene of incidents for parking violations in particular. If a tree is obstructing a street sign, you may be able to argue that it was obscured and not serving its informative purpose, for example.

You can find an attorney in your area to help you with whatever your legal problem is. You can search by practice area or geographical location.

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