Dragan Paunović, LL.M MSc MBA
University of Banja Luka Law School

A mistake of law in present day criminal law in the world is one of the most interesting legal institutes. Its significance comes from the fact that as a wide-spread institute of criminal law it is in the process of comprehensive transformation equally in both, continental and common law system. Some of the most prominent continental law system institutes proceeded from the traditional mistake of law meaning ignorantia iuris nocet or ignorantia iuris neminem excusat to the excusable mistake of law. In these systems the mistake of law presents an excuse from the convict’s responsibility if the mistake of law is non-excusable. In opposite cases, it may present a reason for a lower sentence from its regular value. On the other hand, mainly common law system countries kept firmly to the traditional meaning of the mistake of law institute. In most of these systems, the mistake of law is attached to its traditional phrase: ignorantia iuris nocet or ingnorantia iuris neminem excusat. It means that mistake of law has no effect to a convict’s responsibility if he/she objects to the mistake of law. However, even though both systems choose their approaches to the mistake of law problem in the world, it is quite obvious that both systems are not so convinced in decisions they adopted in their systems. Many prominent criminal law theorists in the world try to find out in which way this institute will go in future. This paper is a part of that complex debate.

Keywords: mistake of law, continental, common law, criminal law, system.

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