redblueyellow wrote:Speaking of Unreasonable Mistake of Fact (and Law), does anyone give me a quick and dirty easy explanation of the two? For some reason, Kaplan is making it difficult to understand accurately.
Mistake of fact is when a mistake negates your intention to commit a crime. So, for example, I think that my friend's necklace is mine. I grab it and take it home. I commit an asporation, of property of another, by trespass. However, another element of larceny is I have the specific intent to deprive. Because I made a mistake of fact, believing that her necklace is mine, I did not form the specific intent necessary to commit a crime.
If I am committing a specific intent crime, the mistake does not need to be reasonable. For example, using the previous example, maybe I saw the letters "JARED" on the friend's necklace, and I believed, from this, that it really belonged to my uncle Jared living in Florida. While unreasonable/crazy, this mistake would enable me to have a full defense to the crime of larceny.
A reasonable mistake is required for general intent and malice crimes. If I picked up a girl that looked exactly like my sister on the side of the road, it might be a defense to kidnapping. However, if I am black, my sister is black, and the girl I mistook for my sister is white, then it would be an unreasonable mistake and I would have no defense.
Mistake of Law is not usually tested on the MBE (unless as a wrong answer). It means that you believed that the law did not apply to your action. But, it actually did apply (I thought selling Cuban cigars was legal). Mistake of law is not a defense generally, but there are some complicated exceptions involving the way information is presented to you that would be a waste of time to study for the bar.
There are two other topics, factual and legal impossibility that relate to attempt. Factual impossibility is almost never a defense. It means that you think you are going to commit crime X, but in reality it was impossible (I was trying to murder my friend by shooting a rocket launcher into his house, but he was actually in the Bahamas). This is not a defense. Legal impossibility may be a defense to attempt (Newman and I formed a conspiracy to sell illegal puerto rican cigars on the black market). We could not be charged, because Cuban cigars are illegal, puerto rican cigars are not. In this way, legal impossibility may be a defense to an inchoate crime