Basic Concepts of Criminal Law

By George P. Fletcher | Go to book overview

9
Relevant versus Irrelevant Mistakes
Mistakes express dissonance. Something looks one way to the actor and another way to the society at large. The society insists that it has the correct view--that the criminal result actually occurred, the victim was really hurt. The suspected offender claims that he saw things differently, that he did not perceive reality the way other people do. The way it looked to him, he was doing nothing wrong, or at least nothing as serious as appears to have occurred. It might appear to others that a suspect shoots and injures a police officer, but as the shooter sees the situation, any of the following might be true:
1. He might be engaged in target practice and think that he is shooting at a cardboard display of a police officer.
2. He might think the officer is a private security guard when he in fact is a federal officer.
3. He might think that the officer is a civilian who is attacking him and that he must respond in self-defense.
4. He might think that the officer is corrupt and that it is his duty to arrest the officer and to take him into custody by first disabling him.

All of these mistaken thoughts might be running through the actor's head as he is shooting at what appears to him as the form of an officer in blue. Some of these thoughts--particularly the thought that

-148-

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Basic Concepts of Criminal Law
Table of contents

Table of contents

  • Title Page iii
  • Acknowledgments vii
  • Contents ix
  • Introduction 3
  • 1 - Substance Versus Procedure 7
  • Notes 23
  • 2 - Punishment Versus Treatment 25
  • Notes 40
  • 3 - Subject Versus Object 43
  • Notes 56
  • 4 - Human Causes Versus Natural Events 59
  • Notes 72
  • 5 - The Crime Versus the Offender 74
  • 6 - Offenses Versus Defenses 93
  • Notes 108
  • 7 - Intention Versus Negligence 111
  • 8 - Self-Defense Versus Necessity 130
  • Notes 145
  • 9 - Relevant Versus Irrelevant Mistakes 148
  • Notes 167
  • 10 - Attempts Versus Completed Offenses 171
  • Notes 184
  • 11 - Perpetration Versus Complicity 188
  • Notes 203
  • 12 - Justice Versus Legality 206
  • Notes 213
  • Index 215
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