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Library News

By: Mark Roseman, Board Member
For: Red Rock News
Date: September 11, 2009

Check out SPL’s Law Books Collection for Enlightenment

Ignorance of the law is no excuse-- Ignorantia juris non excusat.  “Officer, you clocked me at 55, but I didn’t realize the speed limit was 35,” or “Yes, I signed the lease, but I didn’t know I had to pay for holes I punched in the walls,” are examples of not knowing the law and the assertion of meritless, ho-hum defenses.  This broad principle means that being unaware of a law is not grounds for escaping responsibility for violating that law. 

The Sedona Public Library’s (SPL’s) reference and general circulation collections contain all the current laws of Arizona.  The laws are codified in the 19 volume set known as Arizona Revised Statutes (A.R.S).  These volumes of state laws, first authorized in 1951, detail laws ranging from “Abandoned Aircraft” to “Zoos.”  If you have bumped into a particular category of laws (i.e.: tort, negligence, criminal conduct, family law matters, probate, and much more), you are presumed to have command of all the laws relevant to the subject matter in which you are involved.  It makes you wonder why lawyers even exist. However, if you have had a brush with our judicial system, you know that the written law is one thing, but the nuances of legal jurisprudence often require a hired representative to forge through the complicated judicial maze.

The rationale for “the assumption of legal knowledge doctrine” is:  if ignorance of the law were an excuse, a person charged with a crime, or liability in a civil lawsuit, would merely claim that he or she was unaware of the law in question to avoid responsibility.  “I didn’t know I needed a permit to haul these cactus plants out of Red Rock Park . . . I’m from New Jersey!”  Sorry, you should have been aware of A.R.S. Sec. 3-906 A, which provides that “. . .  no person shall take, transport or have in his possession any protected native plant taken from the original growing site in this state without having in his possession a valid permit . . .” Mr. New Jersey would also be assumed to know all of Arizona’s protected groups of plants, by their botanical names, because he took the risk of removing cactus that turned out to be protected by Arizona law.  See: A.R.S. Sec 3-903A.

Even visitors are presumed to know the rules of Arizona’s roads no matter if simply driving through the state or spending vacation time, here, as tourists.  For example, have you ever noticed how roundabouts are negotiated by out-of-town people unaccustomed to yielding?   They have an imputed legal duty to know how to merge and emerge, without driving negligently.  While it would be impossible for even a person with substantial legal training to be aware of every law in operation, in every aspect of Arizona’s activities, this imputation of knowledge policy ensures that willful blindness cannot become the basis of exculpation of responsibility. 

SPL’s legal collection offers its patrons the opportunity to read the state’s laws, do legal research, and study informative books relevant to personal legal issues.  The legal collection is found in several locations in the library.  One section is right behind the reference desk; the books there cover various topics.  The subjects include:  The Living Together Kit for Unmarried Couples, Intellectual Property (Patents, Trademarks & Copyright law), Writing a Simple Will, How to File a Chapter 7 Bankruptcy, Drafting Settlement Agreements, Writing Your Own Business Contracts, Landlord Tenant Law, and Working With Independent Contractors. 

Also, in the 300s section of the library’s public reference collection, there are more useful books.   A sampling of the topics include:  The Foreclosure Survival Guide, Power of Attorney Handbook, Negotiate Real Estate Leases, 8 Ways to Avoid Probate, Immigration & Naturalization, and West’s Encyclopedia of American Law.  The latter is a 13 volume encyclopedia compilation of eclectic articles involving the law.  Articles in the set cover vast topics, including genetic engineering, scamming the elderly, pertinent legal/judicial biographies, landmark cases, and the Law School Aptitude Test (LSAT).

While at the library (or remotely using SPL’s remote access electronic catalogue), you can access the many “Complete Idiot’s Guide(s)” to law-related topics.  Such topics include Guides to the following:  Improving Your Credit Score, Social Security, Business Law, Starting a Successful Family Business, and Wills and Trusts.

For those just getting acquainted with Arizona’s laws, I recommend checking out Arizona Laws 101, A handbook for non-lawyers, by Donald A. Loose, Esquire.  This general circulation book is an easy read and covers the basics of Arizona law. Or, do you want to know if you can point your shot gun at Bell Rock, while driving along Route 179?  The book for you is Arizona Gun Owner’s Guide, by Alan Korwin The author authoritatively covers topics such as legally bearing arms, where guns are forbidden, and when you can shoot.

Ignorance of the law may be no excuse, but there are compelling reasons to become enlightened about the laws of our state and the allied legal resources in SPL’s collection . . . even if you happen to be from New Jersey.

Mark Roseman
Mark Roseman, author of this week's article,
is a retired attorney and a Member of the Board of Trustees of the Sedona Public Library.

Library News appears each Friday in the Red Rock News
and is also presented on: Gateway to Sedona and Sedona Biz.