In German law, mistakes of fact have the effect of excluding intent (Sec. 16 I German Criminal Code, StGB). Thus, if a perpetrator was unaware of a relevant factual circumstance – regardless of whether or not the lack of awareness was their own fault – intent cannot be established. This can be unsatisfactory from a criminal policy perspective. In contrast, in the Anglo-American world, knowledge concerning a fact can, pursuant to the doctrine of “willful ignorance,” be imputed under certain circumstances. The justifications for and prerequisites of this doctrine are controversial, so that a systematic investigation is warranted. Even if the scope of application of willful ignorance in German law would be smaller than in Anglo-American law due to the concept of dolus eventualis, the question arises as to whether the doctrine should be implemented de lege ferenda. Of more obvious relevance to German law is the debate in Spanish legal scholarship concerning the extent to which dolus eventualis can be imputed by means of the doctrine of willful ignorance. This, too, will be examined.
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