Criminal Law

  • This Subject Area Index lists all CALI lessons covering Criminal Law.
  • The Criminal Law Outline allows you to search for terms of art that correspond to topics you are studying to find suggestions for related CALI Lessons.
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Punishment: Theories

This exercise introduces students to the four standard theories of punishment, retribution, deterrence, incapacitation, and rehabilitation. It familiarizes students with the basic features of each theory in the context of particular statutory provisions and hypotheticals drawn from the law of crimes (substantive criminal law) and the law of punishments (sentencing law).

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Constitutional Limitations: Legality

In this exercise, students get an overview of the principle of legality. Legality is divided into four subtopics: legislativity, retroactivity, vagueness, and lenity, which are addressed in turn. Particular attention is paid to the following issues: constitutional foundations; applicability to the states; applicability to the making or the interpretation of criminal laws, and to the legislature or the judiciary; applicability to criminal and civil law, and to substantive and procedural criminal law in particular.

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Constitutional Limitations: 8th Amendment

This exercise provides a general overview of the Eighth Amendment as it applies to substantive criminal law. It outlines the Amendment's potential scope as well as its actual reach, as defined by the U.S. Supreme Court. Procedural criminal law (and the Court's capital punishment jurisprudence in particular) is ignored, except insofar as it bears on substantive criminal law or helps to define the Amendment's scope.

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Presumption of Innocence (Burden of Proof and Presumptions)

This exercise provides a general introduction to constitutional limitations on the assignment of burdens of proof and the creation of evidentiary presumptions. Evidentiary distinctions are addressed only insofar as they make a difference from the standpoint of constitutional law. This exercise is not about the law of criminal evidence, but about the constitutional limitations on that body of law.

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Actus Reus

This exercise provides an introduction to the act requirement. In particular, it addresses the definition of "act," voluntariness, liability for omissions (failures to act), and possession offenses.

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In the criminal law, culpability can be premised upon either an "act" or (in appropriate cases) an "omission" to act. In this lesson, we examine the concept of culpability for omissions, and we explore the limits of criminal culpability. This lesson is intended for students who have studied these issues in class, and who wish to further refine their knowledge.

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Minimum Culpability Requirements Under the Model Penal Code

This is an elementary lesson that introduces the concept of default rules in the Model Penal Code. Students will be introduced to the hierarchy of states of mind expressed in § 2.02(5). This lesson uses sample statutes and scenarios to allow students to practice applying the default rules and hopefully to provide an understanding of why default rules are desirable.