People v. Marrero

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People v. Marrero, 69 N.Y.2d 382, 507 N.E.2d 1068.

Facts: Marrero was a correctional office in a Danbury, CT prison. He was arrested in a NYC social club for unlicensed possession of a loaded gun. D thought that he was exempt by a provision in the State statute that allowed for "peace officers" to carry loaded weapons. The definition of a peace officer in the statute included "correction officers of any state correctional facility or of any penal correctional institution".

Procedural History: D's pretrial motion to dismiss the indictment was granted on the ground that he was a peace officer within the meaning of the statutory exemption. The appellate division reinstated the indictment, holding that he didn't qualify under the statute as a "peace officer." D was convicted by a jury. Appellate division confirmed. D appealed.

Issue: Whether defendant's personal misreading or misunderstanding of a statute may excuse criminal conduct in the circumstances of this case.

Arguments: D misunderstood the state statute; therefore he had no mens rea.

Holding: D cannot be excused under the statute.

Reasons: Strong public policy encourages the court to not allow D to go free. If D was proclaimed innocent, the floodgates would open and justice would be compromised. "To admit excuse would be to encourage ignorance where the lawmaker has determined to make men know and obey."

Judgment: Affirmed

Comments: Ignorance of the law is no excuse.