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Is ignorance of the law excusable for officers?

On Behalf of | Sep 30, 2019 | Criminal Defense

If you commit a crime unknowingly in Georgia, you will still face charges for it. That is how things work. Ignorance of the law is not an excuse for committing crimes. However, what about officers? Can they be ignorant of the law and make uninformed arrests or carry out certain acts simply because they did not know the law? This comes into play especially for traffic offenses, including DUIs.

Forbes explains that sometimes officers try to enforce laws that are not actually laws. They may arrest you because you refuse to do something that you legally do not have to do, or they may instigate a traffic stop because they think you broke a law when you actually did not. Such ignorance of the law leads to lengthy court battles and are a waste of time. If the officer knew the law to begin with, it could have all been avoided.

Since officers enforce the law, they should know the law. At least, that is the argument by those who feel ignorance of the law is not an excuse for officers. On the other hand, opposition thinks that holding officers to this standard is too complicated and would result in them not being able to do an effective job. Essentially, they think that everything comes out in the end when a court, where the law is known and understood, gets to rule on the case. If the officer’s lack of knowledge causes an issue, the court will handle it through throwing out the case or finding you not guilty.

However, the risk here is that you have to spend time in jail, pay out money for your defense and miss time from work to defend yourself against a charge that should not have happened in the first place. The Supreme Court has no solid ruling on this, though, so until then, it is a case by case issue.