I just stumbled upon this article, where it talks about a recent law change:

Norway banned Russian citizens or companies from flying drones or other aircraft in the country on 28 February

I can easily imagine that, while vacationing in Norway, I could hand off the remote control for a small DJI drone to my wife (who is a Russian citizen) unaware that this would be against the law.

Similarly, I discovered one month ago (while using an ATM in an European airport, which was displaying a notice) about EU regulation No 833/2014, Article 5 i (amendment of 15th March 2022)

It shall be prohibited to sell, supply, transfer or export banknotes denominated in any official currency of a Member State to Russia or to any natural or legal person, entity or body in Russia, including the government and the Central Bank of Russia, or for use in Russia.

  1. The prohibition in paragraph 1 shall not apply to the sale, supply, transfer or export of banknotes denominated in any official currency of a Member State provided that such sale, supply, transfer or export is necessary for:

(a) the personal use of natural persons travelling to Russia or members of their immediate families travelling with them

Similarly, when I travelled to Russia recently (after 15th March, but before I discovered the above regulation) to meet my in-laws, I of course brought a little bit of cash with me. It was not the currency of an EU member state, and even if it was it would've been permitted for personal use...

but I feel uncomfortable having inadvertently brushed so close to the boundary between what's permitted and what's outlawed.

With the flurry of new regulations introduced since the Russian invasion, I suspect that there might be a lot more that I'm not aware of. The concerns of (new) laws that affect us personally without us knowing about them it's a generic one, and I know that "Ignorance of the Law is No Excuse".

Usually the concern is about new emergency regulations which affect large swaths of the population, but here I think that the issue is for laws (or interpretation thereof) that affects some obscure circumstances. Due to the relatively small population of Russian citizens in the European Union (EU), and due to the extremely small amount of travellers visiting Russia from the EU, I understand that regulations that affects only those in these circumstances are not be advertised as much as for other laws, but this does not answer the question... how to mitigate risks in accidentally breaching recently introduced new regulations? How to be aware of all of them?

I'm interested in answers relevant for any place in the world, but especially EU/EEA and neighboring countries (UK, Switzerland, etc.)

  • 10
    Ignorance of the law is no defense - but it is something that you can raise in mitigation. Commented Nov 17, 2022 at 16:28
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    I’m not a lawyer, and I have no source to back it up, but I remember being told as a student by my instructor (the former mayor of a small town) that a law needs to be promulgated before it can really be enforced - as in, it needs to have been made public/readily accessible information somehow. I’m not sure if publishing it in a legal code is enough, or if you need something more explicit (eg. a speed limit sign). Commented Nov 17, 2022 at 16:36
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    easy example: people cover up things all the time (eg lying to a friend). it only is a crime if you actually know what you are covering up IS a crime. it's also why every crime that requires prosecution to establish state of mind (you knew what you were doing was illegal) are among the hardest crimes to prove.
    – eps
    Commented Nov 18, 2022 at 4:19
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    @eps - That's ignorance of material facts, not ignorance of the law.
    – Obie 2.0
    Commented Nov 18, 2022 at 9:35
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    Note that in common law jurisdictions (e.g. UK, US, Canada, etc), the common law (i.e. judicial precedents) is part of the law of the land too - and it's often harder to locate, as it consists of judicial rulings going back centuries. Commented Nov 18, 2022 at 15:56

3 Answers 3


The short answer is that, as a practical matter, you can't be aware of every change in the law that could conceivably affect you. Even lawyers don't have enough time to keep up with every change in the law until after a specific legal issue presents itself. Firms selling legal research products have scores and hundreds of employees working full time every day to keep track of every change in the law, to the exclusion of all other working time in their lives.

You can read the mainstream media and trade publications in fields in which you are engaged which often address these questions. You can take continuing education courses in your occupation or profession. You can confer with a lawyer before taking action in areas where you aren't familiar with the law. You can proceed with caution when you do something that everyone else you know of who is similarly situated is not doing. You can pay special attention to the news and government provided information during periods of major emergencies.

But, the rule that ignorance of the law is no excuse is sometimes simply harsh and unfair. Nonetheless, this rule is the law with respect to most kinds of laws in most legal systems.

As a practical matter, law enforcement authorities and courts will often show leniency towards someone who innocently violates a new law of which they were unaware, at least the first time, sometimes letting them off with a warning or a minimal penalty. But you have no legal right to that kind of treatment.

  • So the power of arbitrary punishment over the entire population is effectively given to unsympathetic judges and/or prosecutors? Since there are so many new or revised laws happening every year in a big polity like the U.S. or EU
    – M. Y. Zuo
    Commented Nov 19, 2022 at 17:29
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    @M.Y.Zuo, the more insane or sweeping a law, the more likely it is to be widely reported. Personally, I have absolutely no idea of the licensing requirements for civil aviation, but since I don't own or pilot aircraft, I can safely ignore that gap in my knowledge.
    – o.m.
    Commented Nov 19, 2022 at 19:15
  • @o.m. Even after excluding laws applicable to only specific entities, such as commonly found in civil aviation, commercial fisheries, bond markets, etc., aren't there still hundreds of pages worth of changes happening every year? Or is my math way off?
    – M. Y. Zuo
    Commented Nov 19, 2022 at 20:55
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    @M.Y.Zuo, thousands of pages, probably, but most are relevant to people who want to push the edges of what is allowed. For instance, Germany recently had new laws punishing interference with fire and ambulance staff. The behaviour covered by the new law would have been a crime under more general laws, too, just with lesser penalties. Or the controversial hate speech law, which didn't change a single thing in what one is allowed to say -- it just forced communications providers to help with the deletion and prosecution. It simply isn't seen as a problem the way you describe.
    – o.m.
    Commented Nov 20, 2022 at 15:54
  • @M.Y.Zuo You are way off in the sense of laws that impact the core behavior of average people. Also, lots of people are expecting rapid changes in some areas of the law and have systems set up to follow those changes (e.g. tax accountants).
    – ohwilleke
    Commented Nov 21, 2022 at 19:04

In Canada, notices of proposed regulations, the official regulations and orders, as well as Acts of Parliament are published weekly (with extra additions as needed) in the Canada Gazette.

Canada also has a strong Parliamentary press gallery whose journalism is focused on the Parliament and government.

As one example, during the government's invocation of the Emergency Act in 2021, there was extensive media coverage about any of the new restrictions and penalties as they were announced and lifted.

You can also subscribe to trusted, specialty sources (industry newsletters, etc.) when operating in a tightly regulated area and want to stay aware of the latest changes without having to scour the Gazette. Aviation and finance are two areas likely to have good industry resources.


The first requirement is to know what jurisdiction you "are" in. That would obviously include country and state, but you also have to consider county and municipality, since these are layers of government that may have authority to pass laws.

The second requirement is to understand who can make a "law", or, what a "law" is. A jurisdiction with law-making power has at least one body that can do this, hence US Congress or Washington state legislature, or Seattle City Council. However, to take the case of federal laws, Congress frequently passes vague laws describing a desired effect, and it is up to the executive branch to promulgate regulations that say exactly what you can and cannot do (likewise state legislatures, and perhaps county and city governing bodies).

Then finally, the courts have the power to interpret how laws are interpreted in its jurisdiction – this is implemented when somebody sues over a law and the court decides "What this law means is...". This takes the status of "law" when an appellate court makes such a declaration. Then you have to follow a chain of appeals, where a trial court's version is overturned by one level of appellate court, which is overturned by the next level, on up to the state of federal supreme courts.

Acts of Congress can be tracked here (a specific bill, not yet enacted), or for all current bills here. This pertains to all bills, this gives you all laws enacted (including presidential approval). The net result is codified in the US Code, with annotations indicating changes. Regulations set down by the executive branch which implement the details of presidential authority (constitutional and statutory) are presented in the Federal Register, then after a period of public comment, a final rule is announced – this is where one is most likely to find a new rule about drones. Those rules are (mostly) codified in the Code of Federal Regulations.

Similarly one can probably find new state laws on a state website, for example in Washington, the statutes and the regulations. At the level of county and city, you may have to go to the meetings of the legislative body, though the bills and ordinances of Seattle are findable here (is you know the number of what you want to look up).

Appellate court decisions may be available online – higher court rulings most reliably. You just have to plug in the relevant court level to find recent rulings. I should also mention that regulatory agencies may make pronouncements regarding how they run, which are analogous to court rulings. These are not, however, part of the codified administrative code, they are just announcements and decisions that will probably be followed. The Cole Memorandum underlies the legalization of marijuana in many states (it is still technically illegal at the federal level).

There are additional governmental layers that may be relevant, for example school districts or fire districts. A school district may state a policy that will be "enforced" against students or employees, and these are not gathered together into the administrative code. You then look those changes up in the minutes of the school board meeting.

The search will need to be widened in case you have any connections outside of your particular city, e.g. if you buy groceries in another city, you will be subject to whatever new laws are enacted there. If you sign a copyright agreement with an English publisher, you will probably have to investigate their copyright law, not just that of your home country.

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