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33. Re: Morning Legal Briefs Mar 27, 2013, 16:25 Beamer
PHJF wrote on Mar 27, 2013, 16:17:
Plus, laws don't necessarily care what your intention was

They absolutely do. Criminal laws establish the culpable mental state of the offender as an element of the crime (negligently, recklessly, knowingly, purposefully).

It's kind of hard to recklessly or negligently aim green lasers at an airplane and then a police helicopter. The little shit got exactly what he deserved.


Sec. 39A. Aiming a laser pointer at an aircraft
(a) OFFENSE -- Whoever knowingly aims the beam of a laser pointer at an aircraft in the special aircraft jurisdiction of the United States, or at the flight path of such an aircraft, shall be fined under this title or imprisoned not more than 5 years, or both.

Bingo bango. Not knowing something is illegal? Not a defense.

Yes, words like reckless imply that a crime can be a crime even if you didn't intend to do harm. This is called mens rea.

But laws don't necessarily have to care.

And some crimes can be a crime regardless of what you meant. Possession of child porn, for one. Have sex with a 14 year old? You're going to jail, even if she looked 60, you checked her birth certificate and social security number, you interviewed her parents, saw a birth announcement from 1953, etc. Most of those laws, as well as things like child pornography laws, or speeding laws, also lack any reference to mens rea.

This is called strict liability. You are liable for doing something regardless of whether you meant to, or whether you were even slightly wrong or negligent for it.

And not knowing something is illegal is never a defense. Well, almost never. If a law is passed and you do something an hour later you may have some kind of defense.
Music for the discerning:
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