By Carlos Gamino

Many lawyers successfully defend their clients by arguing that there was a mistake of fact involved in the alleged crime. A mistake of fact is an error that relates to some fact in the case. For example, if Jackie thinks an iPhone sitting on the table belongs to her when it really belongs to Steve, Jackie has made a mistake of fact.

What is a Mistake of Fact in Criminal Acts?

A mistake of fact can often be used to defend someone against criminal charges, provided that it negates a material element of the crime. If Jackie picked up the iPhone on the table and took it home believing it was hers, she didn’t steal it – she thought it was hers, so she put it in her pocket and left.

The reason Jackie isn’t a thief is that she didn’t intend to deprive its real owner of the phone permanently; that’s a material element of the crime of theft. She only made a mistake of fact: She thought the phone belonged to her. It was an honest mistake.

Although there’s security footage of Jackie picking up the phone, dropping it into her pocket and leaving with it, her attorney can argue that she made a mistake of fact in thinking that it belonged to her. Her attorney can also explain the steps she took to return the phone to its rightful owner to further argue her case.

Related: What is a criminal appeal?

The phone is just an example. There are several other cases in which it may be reasonable to argue that someone has made a mistake of fact, and if your attorney believes it’s a good defense in your case, they’ll explain why.

Do You Need to Talk to an Attorney About Mistake of Fact?

If you’ve been charged with a crime but you believe you actually made a mistake of fact, call us at 414-383-6700 now. We’ll evaluate your case for free and give you the answers you need to start moving forward.

Attorney Carlos Gamino