Lambert was convicted of
forgery, which made her a felon.
Lambert later moved to Los
Angeles, unaware there was a city ordinance (§§52.38(a), 52.39,
52.43(b)) that convicted felons must
register if they stay in the city.
When the police learned
Lambert was in town, they arrested her.
The Trial Court convicted
Lambert of violating the city ordinance and fined $250. She appealed.
Lambert argued that it was a
violation of due process to
convict her of a crime she didn't know she was committing.
The Appellate Court upheld the
conviction. Lambert appealed.
The California Supreme Court
upheld the conviction. Lambert appealed.
The US Supreme Court reversed.
The US Supreme Court found
that that knowledge or probability of knowledge of a statute is required
to convict someone of a notice offense.
"Where a person did
not know of the duty to register and where there was no proof of the
probability of such knowledge, he may not be convicted consistently with
The Court differentiated an
active act with a passive act. In this case, Lambert didn't actually do anything. She failed to meet a requirement
that she was unaware of. The court felt that was different than doing
something that they didn't know was illegal.