Reply: Is Ignorance of Fact an Excuse Only for the Virtuous?

Professor Yeager’s thoughtful response to my essay has convinced me that there is indeed a connection worth noting between the mistake of law doctrine and the mistake of fact doctrine. Yeager suggests that my position on mistake of law reduces to the view that someone who would be guilty of a “lesser wrong” were things as he perceived them to be may be punished for the “greater wrong” that he actually commits – a conception of mistake of fact that has provoked fierce denunciation from commentators. But I would in fact put things slightly differently: under both doctrines courts excuse a mistaken offender when, but only when, the offender’s mistake negates the inference that he has failed to internalize society’s moral norms.