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Can a mistake of fact defense help in drug distribution cases?

On Behalf of | Feb 21, 2023 | Drug Charges

Charges involving drug distribution usually lead to substantial penalties. A conviction for distributing about a pound of cocaine in Maryland could mean thousands of dollars in fines and decades of imprisonment.

With so much at stake, it is unwise to dismiss any defense strategy until you have explored it thoroughly. You never know when the circumstances of your arrest might present a unique opportunity to fight the charges successfully. For example, a mistake of fact defense is worth considering if you were involved in the alleged crime without your knowledge.

How does it work?

Mens rea is a legal doctrine that refers to the thoughts and intentions of defendants during an alleged crime. It enables the court to avoid penalizing someone who lacked the intent and knowledge required to commit a crime.

A defense based on a mistake of fact requires you and your legal counsel to show the following:

  • You lacked the intent to break the law
  • This is so because you misunderstood a fact

For instance, an acquaintance tells you they are selling protein drink mix and asks you to drop off a delivery and take payment on your way home. Unbeknownst to you, the box contains cocaine, and the police confront you as soon as you deliver the package. Now, you are facing drug distribution charges because you believed the contents were harmless and legal.

On the other hand, if you believed the package contained heroin instead of cocaine, such a defense would do little to help, as your conduct was still unlawful.

Do not give up on defending yourself from a drug-related conviction. Instead, explore all possible defense options at your disposal.