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Thomas McJD
Thomas McJD, Lawyer
Category: Real Estate Law
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Experience:  Real Estate Attorney
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Can Lambert v. California, 355 U.S. 225 (1957), was a United

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Can Lambert v. California, 355 U.S. 225 (1957), was a United States Supreme Court case regarding the acceptability of ignorance of the law as an excuse for a crime. The court held that in order to be punished, there must be a probability that the accused party had knowledge of the law before committing the crime be applied to the lack of knowledge of Home Improvement HOA rules that are not provided to a homeowner for 2 months after closing? For an act that occurred post-closing and before receipt or knowledge of those rules?

This case is an exception to the legal principle ignorantia legis non excusat — that the ignorance of the law is not a suitable excuse for breaking it. Because it deals with the motives (or lack thereof) for committing a crime, it addresses mens rea, the degree of legal culpability that arises from the motivation of a criminal.

TMcJD : Hi, I will be happy to assist you, and it is my goal to make you a very satisfied customer! This may take a few minutes, so thanks for your patience.
TMcJD : Unfortunately no because HOA rules are not laws. They are rules of the private association, which is a civil, not criminal matter. There is no "intent" element with such rules and laws and so knowledge of breaking (i.e. intent) is not relevant to determining culpability for a violation.
Customer: Hi TM.
Customer: Are you there?
TMcJD : Yes.
Customer: Are there any analgous rules for civil rules? The reason I ask is this - We bought a new home and had a playset installed the day we moved in for our sons (one son has special needs and the playset helped him transition to a new home).
Customer: During the building and closing process, close date was 3/15/13 - playground constructed on that day, we were not provided the HOA rules. Not until a HOA rep visited our house on 4/30/13 were we made aware of the rules regarding obtaining HOA approval for playsets.
TMcJD : Unfortunately not in this type of situation. I'm sorry for your situation, I know it's ridiculous that you're now being told you are in violation of HOA rules when you didn't get a copy for 2 months, but those rules applied from day one and the law makes the presumption that you knew the rules or would seek out knowledge of the rules prior to making any improvements knowing that such improvement could be in violation of the HOA rules. It's really dumb, but that's the law.
Customer: Currently the HOA has dispproved due to the playset's spec being 1 foot to tall. Is there anything I can do?
Customer: Well, if that's the law. So be it. This was very helpful.
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