Justification, rationality and mistake: Mistake of law is no excuse? It might be a justificaton!

Law and Philosophy 25 (1):31-79 (2006)
According to a famous maxim, ignorance or mistake of law is no excuse. This maxim is supposed to represent both the standard and the proper rule of law. In fact, this maxim should be qualified in both respects: ignorance and mistake of law sometimes are, and (perhaps even more often) should be, excused. But this dual qualification only reinforces the fundamental and ubiquitous assumption which underlies the discussions of the subject, namely, that the only ground of exculpation relevant to ignorance or mistake of law is excuse due to lack of (sufficient) culpability. The paper challenges this consensus. I argue that, according to the best conception of justification, ignorance and mistake, including ignorance and mistake of law, could be justified. Generally, ignorance and mistake are justified when based on a rational analysis of the information the agent has and should have. The conceptual possibility of justified ignorance or mistake is demonstrated mainly with respect to ignorance or mistake of law due to reliance on the guidance of public officials or private lawyers.
Keywords Law   Logic   Philosophy of Law   Law Theory/Law Philosophy   Political Science   Social Issues
Categories (categorize this paper)
DOI 10.1007/s10982-005-5551-z
 Save to my reading list
Follow the author(s)
My bibliography
Export citation
Find it on Scholar
Edit this record
Mark as duplicate
Revision history Request removal from index
Download options
PhilPapers Archive

Upload a copy of this paper     Check publisher's policy on self-archival     Papers currently archived: 16,667
External links
Setup an account with your affiliations in order to access resources via your University's proxy server
Configure custom proxy (use this if your affiliation does not provide a proxy)
Through your library
References found in this work BETA

No references found.

Add more references

Citations of this work BETA
Douglas Husak (2010). Mistake of Law and Culpability. Criminal Law and Philosophy 4 (2):135-159.

Add more citations

Similar books and articles

Monthly downloads

Added to index


Total downloads

60 ( #56,897 of 1,726,580 )

Recent downloads (6 months)

3 ( #231,303 of 1,726,580 )

How can I increase my downloads?

My notes
Sign in to use this feature

Start a new thread
There  are no threads in this forum
Nothing in this forum yet.