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Illinois Criminal Code of 1961

Article 4 - Ignorance of the Law as a Defense

What if an Illinois criminal defendant didn't know that his or her actions were illegal? When a defendant did not realize that certain conduct was against the law, this can be used as a defense in certain circumstances, as explained in Section 4-8.

In other words, in certain situations, ignorance of the law, or simply having made a legitimate mistake, can be effective criminal defense strategies for your Illinois criminal case. But it is much more complex than that, and you should talk to an experienced Illinois criminal defense attorney about the specifics of your case.

Need a consultation with a good Illinois criminal defense attorney? If are facing a criminal hearing or trial in Illinois, call our Chicago criminal defense attorneys today at (312) 466-9466 to discuss your case.

The text below comes from Article 4 of the Illinois Criminal Code of 1961. This law may have changed -- please read the important legal disclaimer at the bottom of this page.

Illinois Criminal Code of 1961 - Article 4

Sec. 4-8. Ignorance or mistake.
    (720 ILCS 5/4-8)

(a) A person's ignorance or mistake as to a matter of either fact or law, except as provided in Section 4-3(c) above, is a defense if it negatives the existence of the mental state which the statute prescribes with respect to an element of the offense.

(b) A person's reasonable belief that his conduct does not constitute an offense is a defense if:

(1) The offense is defined by an administrative regulation or order which is not known to him and has not been published or otherwise made reasonably available to him, and he could not have acquired such knowledge by the exercise of due diligence pursuant to facts known to him; or

(2) He acts in reliance upon a statute which later is determined to be invalid; or

(3) He acts in reliance upon an order or opinion of an Illinois Appellate or Supreme Court, or a United States appellate court later overruled or reversed;

(4) He acts in reliance upon an official interpretation of the statute, regulation or order defining the offense, made by a public officer or agency legally authorized to interpret such statute.

(c) Although a person's ignorance or mistake of fact or law, or reasonable belief, described in this Section 4--8 is a defense to the offense charged, he may be convicted of an included offense of which he would be guilty if the fact or law were as he believed it to be.

(d) A defense based upon this Section 4--8 is an affirmative defense. (Source: Laws 1961, p. 1983.)

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DISCLAIMER: These excerpts from the law are provided for reference purposes only. Visitors to our Chicago criminal defense lawyer website should be aware that Illinois criminal laws have been amended many times and that Illinois crime laws posted on this site may not be current. In addition, Illinois criminal case law defines precedents for legal determinations that are not defined in the original laws.

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