ignorance of the law is no excuse for breaking it

There is a hoary L. legal maxim: ignorantia iuris neminem excusat, ignorance of the law excuses nobody.

c 1412 T. HOCCLEVE De Regimene Principum (EETS) 92 Excuse schal hym naght his ignorance.

1530 C. ST. GERMAN Dialogues in English II. xlvi. Ignorance of the law though it be inuincible doth not excuse.

1616 T. DRAXE Adages 100 The ignorance of the law excuseth no man.

a 1654 J. SELDEN Table-Talk (1689) 30 Ignorance of the Law excuses no man; not that all Men know the Law, but because ’tis an excuse every man will plead, and no man can tell how to confute him.

1830 N. AMES Mariner’s Sketches xxviii. Ignorance of the law excuses nobody... The gates of mercy are forever shut against them.

1979 Private Eye 17 Aug. 6 [He] was fined £5 at Marylebone Court when he learned that ignorance of the law is no excuse for breaking it.


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