Jon Strauss


"Ignorance of the law is no excuse" is a well-known saying regarding criminal law. Yet the 1991 Supreme Court decision of Cheek v. United States held that a defendant's ignorance of the federal tax laws is an excuse to the crime of nonpayment of income taxes. This paper reviews the history of the defense of ignorance of the law in tax crimes, discusses the philosophical ramifications of this defense, and examines the extent to which the Supreme Court's allowance of this defense is appropriate.