Sunday, November 17, 2013

People v. Marrero case brief

People v. Marrero case brief summary
507 N.E.2d 1068 (1987)

Criminal defendant appealed from an order of the Appellate Division of the Supreme Court in the First Judicial Department (New York), which affirmed a judgment of the trial court upon a verdict convicting defendant of criminal possession of a weapon in the third degree.

Defendant was charged with criminal possession of a weapon in the third degree. Defendant claimed as his defense his personal misunderstanding of the statutory definition of a peace officer. Defendant claimed that he was excused from criminal liability under the mistake of law statute, N.Y. Penal Law § 15.20. The trial court refused to charge the jury on the issue, and defendant was convicted. The appellate division upheld the conviction.


  • On review, the court concluded that the correctly construed view of the defense of mistake or ignorance should not be recognized except where specific intent was an element of the offense or where the mistakenly-relied-upon law was subsequently adjudicated as incorrect. 
  • The court determined that such a rule would ensure procedural due process under constitutionally vague statutes, yet not permit the exception to swallow the rule. 
  • The forbidden act of possessing a weapon was clear and unambiguous, and the court determined that the defense of mistake did not apply to the situation because the only mistake was in defendant's understanding.

Defendant's conviction was affirmed.

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