You are on page 1of 1

Mistake of Law and Mens Rea

Case: United States v. Baker, 807 F.2d 427 (1986) [p. 235-236]

Summary: In 1984, Congress enacted a new law which criminalized counterfeiting. Δ convicted for
trafficking in counterfeit goods. He does not dispute that he intentionally dealt in the counterfeit watches,
and admits he knew the "Rolex" watches he sold were counterfeit. However, he argues he did not know
this was a crime, and had he known, he would not have done it - basically he did not know about the new
law. Court disagrees, and upholds that ignorance of the law is not an excuse.

RULE: (from both Bray & Baker combined) The Δ may be acquitted for ignorance that conditions
specified in the definition were present; but may not be acquitted merely because she did not know that
such conditions constituted defining elements of a proscribed offense.

Notes
• To fall under the statute, all he needs to know is that the watches are fake, and he is selling them as such.
• This is a mistake of governing law (mistake of non-governing law, as in Bray, are like mistakes of fact -
this is different).