Which is the google cache of:
State v. Leavitt, No. 25510-3-II, (Slip Op., July 20, 2001).
July 2001 STATE v. LEAVITT 1
Cause No. 25510-3-II
[No. 25510-3-II. Division Two. July 20, 2001.]
STATE OF WASHINGTON, ) No. 25510-3-II
Miller v. Commonwealth, 492 S.E.2d 482, 487, 488-89 (Va. Ct.
App. 1997) (citing Raley v. Ohio, 360 U.S. 423, 439, 79 S. Ct.
1257, 3 L. Ed. 2d 1344 (1959)).
The Miller court articulated the basic conflict here --
between the long-standing principle that "ignorance of the law is no
defense" and the inherent unfairness of an authority figure, here, a
sentencing judge, inadvertently misleading a defendant about his legal
obligations such that the defendant relied on this misinformation to his
Reflecting the axiom that everyone is "presumed to know the
law," the common law rule that "ignorance of the law is no
excuse" admitted of few exceptions. The common law position
was based on the fact that most common law crimes were
malum in se. Seen as "inherently and essentially evil
without any regard to the fact of [their] being noticed or
punished by the law of the state," Black's Law Dictionary 959
(6th ed.1990), ignorance of the prohibition of such crimes was
simply untenable. The rationale underlying the rule is less
compelling for crimes that are malum prohibitum, viz.,
acts that are "wrong because prohibited," not by virtue of
their inherent character. Black's Law Dictionary 960 (6th ed.
1990). Yet, the proposition that ignorance of the law is no
excuse generally maintains with respect to crimes malum
prohibitum, largely for pragmatic purposes. Although
leading at times to seemingly "unfair" results, rigid
application of the rule promotes the policy it serves: "to
encourage people to learn and know the law." . . . E.g., . . .
Oliver W. Holmes, The Common Law 48 (1881) . . . .
Nonetheless, "[w]ith `the increasing complexity of law, the
multiplication of crimes mala prohibita, and a more
exact definition of fundamental principles of criminal
liability,' certain exceptions to the general rule have
emerged." [/9] . . . . The exception at issue addresses the
legal consequences of a violation of the criminal law by an
individual who takes measures to learn what conduct the
government has proscribed, but is misadvised by the government
itself. A number of states have adopted statutes bearing on
the subject, but Virginia has not. [/10]
Miller, 492 S.E.2d at 485 (1997) /11 (citations omitted). /12
Nor has the State of Washington /13 adopted such a statute.
We agree with Miller that the "ignorance of the law" axiom
should not automatically apply to malum prohibitum, such as
unlawful firearm possession, in those instances where the predicate
sentencing court has failed to follow the law requiring it to advise the
defendant that he may no longer possess firearms. The Miller
court referenced the United States Supreme Court's decision in
Raley, 360 U.S. 423, which found that a governmental
commission's representations to Raley were legally erroneous and
"active[ly] misleading," especially because the commission was "the voice
of the State most presently speaking to the [defendants]."