1. Decide if it's a specific or general intent crime (does the crime intend for you to do something beyond the actus reus- Ex: attempt is a specific intent crime, because you have to attempt but also intend to commit a crime)
If specific intent, does the mistake of fact negate the necessary mens rea as defined in the statute? Ex: most theft statutes don't just require you to take an object, they require you to knowingly deprive someone of their property permanently. A mistake of fact here would be that you thought the wallet was your own, not someone else's.
If general intent, there are three possible doctrines
1. Reasonableness- person isn't guilty of a general intent crime if his mistake of fact is reasonable, but he's guilty if his mistake is unreasonable. (Reasoning: you need a guilty mind to be guilty of a general intent crime. If you make a reasonable mistake, you don't have that guilty mind. However, if you make an unreasonable mistake, then we can infer a guilty mind due to your gross negligence)- there's a general movement in the courts towards allowing a defense for honest mistakes, rather than just reasonable ones though.
2. Moral wrong doctrine-if the facts were as the D believed them to be, his conduct was still immoral- in this case, mistake of fact is no defense. Ex: took away a 16 year old girl from her father thinking she was 18. Violated a statute prohibiting the taking away of a girl under 18 from her father, even though he thought she was 18, b/c if the facts were as he believed them he was still taking a girl away from her father.
3. Legal wrong doctrine- if the facts were as the D believed them to be, his conduct was still illegal. Under this doctrine he can be charged with the HIGHER offense.
1. Honest mistake- protects against knowingly/purposely/recklessly
2. Reasonable and honest mistake- protects against negligently- the mistake can't grossly deviate from what a reasonable person would know (Reasoning: negligence is for when you should know of a substantial and unjustifiable risk, but you don't. Therefore, if you allowed a defense for honest defense, it would allow people to act negligently w/o punishment because there's no reasonableness requirement)
Does that clarify at all?