to think committing a crime without knowing you were breaking the law is different to knowing your breaking the law?

(62 Posts)
Karsyn Wed 27-Aug-14 23:36:50

hypothetical, came up in coversation at work today., i think it was because of something that someone read on the news. anyway. found i was in the minority in my opinion but wonder if MN agrees.

example being discussed was jaywalking. in the UK its not illegal but in the US it is. foreign visitor to the uS might not know and cross the road at a place they're not allowed to and get arrested and fined. i think, in cases like this, people who didn't know (because they're not familiar with laws in diff country, and who reads up on all the minor laws like this before visting another country?) shoudn't have to pay a fine. But people who do know and choose to do it anyway are different because they're making a concious decision to break the law.

colleagues unanimosly disagree and say people should be responsible whether they knew or not, to the same degree as someone who knew they were breaking the law

Obviously for major crimes it shouldn't apply, but for things like this? Especially when getting arrested/charged in a foreign country can mean you cant go back there, it seems a bit unfair when people genuinley have no idea they're committing a crime.

AIBU to think there's a difference?

BackforGood Wed 27-Aug-14 23:41:02

I agree with you. I suppose the difficulty is proving that someone does/doesn't know the law.
You'd like to hope that the arresting official had a bit of common sense and the leeway to use it.

freedom2post Wed 27-Aug-14 23:42:03

You can't prove ignorance though can you?

So if someone says 'I didn't know' how can you prove if they actually did know or not?

If ignorance was a defence then everyone would claim ignorance.

So the assumption has to be that everyone knows the law.

strawberryangel Wed 27-Aug-14 23:42:40

What backforgood said!

Ignorance of the law is no defense. It behooves people to do their homework before they travel.

BTW I jaywalk, I live in Canada and I believe my winning personality and accent will make the Police skip the ticket. I still know I deserve one.

morethanpotatoprints Wed 27-Aug-14 23:45:00

I disagree with you,
firstly it is your responsibility to know the laws and in the case of your example of jay walking it isn't so minor if it carries a fine.
secondly, if you break the law you should pay the penalty.
I don't think ignorance is a fair plea at all.

MrsPennyapple Wed 27-Aug-14 23:45:49

I think the phrase is "ignorance is not a defense". Where is the line between which laws do and do not apply? How do you determine who should be aware of the laws, and who can not be aware, but be forgiven for their ignorance?

There just isn't time or manpower to analyse each case individually.

MrsPennyapple Wed 27-Aug-14 23:46:55

Sorry, that was a poorly worded x-post, not correcting you MrsTerryPratchett!

I got that MrsP grin

PhaedraIsMyName Wed 27-Aug-14 23:47:54

Ignorantia juris neminem excusat

Show-off grin

BuggersMuddle Thu 28-Aug-14 00:06:53

Well it sort of depends what the law is. Although I think it's good practice when visiting another country in particular to be aware of differences in law. As unlikely as it is that I visit Saudi, I wouldn't envisage driving my car with the top down and hair streaming back in that scenario hmm

Other than your jaywalking example (and accepting that's US), I'm not sure of any others where a person could be reasonably ignorant of the law an wantonly flouting it to the extent where they are liable to be arrested.

After all, your chances of being arrested for low level offences (getting high, being D&D, speeding) are pretty bloody low.

saoirse31 Thu 28-Aug-14 00:37:46

Ignorance is no excuse... or it would be v difficult to prosecute anyone...

LatteLoverLovesLattes Thu 28-Aug-14 01:46:19

It is an offense to activate your burglar alarm and leave the property if you haven't nominated a key-holder who can access your house to switch off your siren should it go off

I expect a lot of people break this law on a regular basis. Funnily enough I'm not gagging for their arrest.

Placing a stamp bearing the Monarch's head upside down on an envelope is an act of treason

I mean, put me in the stocks now!

Plenty of laws are unwittingly broken on an hourly basis. No-one knows all the laws and it's not reasonable to expect them to, especially if they are visiting a country. Unless it's a fairly 'Big and Universal' law, I think a little leniency and common sense go a long way when deciding is someone is 'guilty' or not.

MooseBeTimeForSpring Thu 28-Aug-14 02:34:35

Mens Rea

It's a Latin battle! Only on MN.

Brabra Thu 28-Aug-14 02:48:04

It is an offense to activate your burglar alarm and leave the property if you haven't nominated a key-holder who can access your house to switch off your siren should it go off

I expect a lot of people break this law on a regular basis. Funnily enough I'm not gagging for their arrest.

Really latte? I would send cunts who do that down for life. bitter memories of old neighbour's alarm constantly going off for hours on end

Pastperfect Thu 28-Aug-14 02:57:56

Rightly ignorance is not a defence in law, but I agree with you in theory: those who deliberately flout the law are behaving worse than those who ignorantly break the law

steff13 Thu 28-Aug-14 02:59:45

It's unlikely you'd be arrested for jaywalking, unless you became abusive toward the police officer. You might be ticketed, but I'd wager most police officers would let you off with a warning when they learned you were foreign.

That said, I agree with previous posters; ignorance to the law is not a defense.

LatteLoverLovesLattes Thu 28-Aug-14 03:57:48

Brabra - yeah, you might have a point grin

MexicanSpringtime Thu 28-Aug-14 04:43:35

It is an offense to activate your burglar alarm and leave the property if you haven't nominated a key-holder who can access your house to switch off your siren should it go off

And quite rightly. I had a burglar alarm at one time and gave my neighbour a key, telling her not to confront burglars either. That is common human decency. I was living in Dublin at the time and the city was alive with burglar alarms going off all weekend long. Appalling noise pollution.

NinjaLeprechaun Thu 28-Aug-14 05:20:30

It's unlikely you'd be arrested for jaywalking, unless you became abusive toward the police officer. You might be ticketed, but I'd wager most police officers would let you off with a warning when they learned you were foreign.
Depending where you are, they might let you off with a warning anyway. I once saw a police car in my town stop to let jaywalkers cross, and then carry on its way. Not that I'd rely on this, of course.

On the other hand, my mum was ticketed for not waiting for pedestrians to clear the crosswalk before she started moving. When she told the cop she hadn't known the law, his response was 'well, now you do.'

MrsMonkeyBear Thu 28-Aug-14 05:36:39

A little off thread but on the same lines:

"man X says to judge that he was on strong prescription drugs, which made him unaware of his actions. Consequently man X is let off on the charges against him."

Does the above mean that anyone who is on drugs, whether legal or illegal, should be let off as they "may not be aware" of what they are doing?

FindoGask Thu 28-Aug-14 05:41:09

From a moral point of view I more or less agree with you, depending on the law, but law students are taught very early that ignorance of the law is no defence, so it makes no difference legally if not morally.

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