Knowledge About Legal Sanctions

Ironically, the dictum that “ignorance of the law is no excuse” itself illustrates selective transmission because, despite the widespread dissemination of this maxim to the public, ignorance of the law often is a permissible defense in actual adjudication. The divergence between the maxim and reality is a form of selective transmission that encourages individuals to learn the law, which improves their behavior, but avoids any injustice that would arise from punishing uninformed individuals for conduct they reasonably believed was lawful. We aim to offer a more systematic account of whether and when knowledge about legal sanctions, and restrictions on the dissemination or use of such knowledge, are socially desirable.