When Can a Mistake in Fact Defense Be Used?
There are certain situations where a person commits acts that would typically be a crime. However, as the person commits the relevant actions, if they were operating under a mistaken factual belief, this defense can take shape and forgive a person of a crime they would usually be guilty of under normal circumstances.
The critical requirement that saves the day for defendants using this defense is that they must hold a reasonable belief of specific vital facts to escape responsibility for the subject crime,
For example, take off your watch and other jewelry in a hotel bathroom and accidentally take similar-looking jewelry that belongs to another. You might use this defense if you thought you were taking your jewelry.
In California, the mistake in fact defense can negate the elements of a specific defense crime. A criminal defense attorney can have their client found not guilty under the correct facts.
Suppose the defense can show that the defendant did not intend to commit a crime and simply made an honest mistake in believing specific key facts that turned out to be incorrect. Of course, as indicated above, any belief must be reasonable and make sense to a jury. Otherwise, the defense will simply be viewed as a ruse to escape their committed crime.