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CRM 2244 Substantive Criminal Law

Course Description

Discusses the creation and application of substantive criminal law. Includes the nature and origins of criminal law, substantive due process, elements of criminal liability, the doctrine of complicity, uncompleted crimes, defenses to criminal liability, and the elements of crimes against persons, habitation, property and public order.

Course Objectives

Upon completion of this course, students should be able to

  • Acquire a comprehensive overview of the general principles and doctrines of criminal law
  • Acquire an awareness of the English common-law heritage and its role in the development of American criminal law
  • Appreciate for the balance of government power and the limits of that power to define crimes and establish punishments through constitutional limitations
  • Acknowledge that criminal law is a wide-ranging and complex subject which is in a ceaseless process of change
  • Understand the changes that have been made in criminal law and more importantly, an insight into the changes that need to be made
  • Understand the establishment and modification of Federal and State Statutes and Local ordinances with specific emphases on the American Law Institute's model penal code
  • Recognize that substantive criminal law is a vast and dynamic subject that regulates and protects society
  • Acquire the knowledge necessary to locate, analyze and brief actual cases

Week 1

Lecture: Constitutional Limits on Criminal Law


  • Define how the constitution limits the scope of the criminal law
  • Analyze the concept of the rule of law
  • Define and give examples of ex post facto laws
  • Describe the void-for-vagueness doctrine
  • Identify the concept of equal protection of the law
  • Discuss freedom of speech and press
  • Explain the constitutional right to privacy
  • Analyze the majority and dissenting opinions in Lawrence v. Texas (2003)
  • Specify the various dimensions of the ban on cruel and unusual punishment

Week 2

Lecture: General Principles of Criminal Liability, Actus Reus
Lecture: General Principles of Criminal Liability, Mens Rea


  • Identify the basic principles of criminal liability
  • Recognize the requirement of an actus reus
  • Investigate why acts must be voluntary to be criminal
  • Detail how possession is an act
  • Identify the two types of possession
  • Differentiate between knowing and mere possession
  • Ascertain why a status or condition cannot be a criminal act
  • Explain that an omission to act can also be a criminal act
  • Detail the two common criminal forms of omission, failures to report and intervene
  • Recognize that an omission to act can be a crime only when there is a duty to act
  • Discuss the concept of mens rea, or the mental element of crime
  • List the major types of mens rea
  • Recount how mens rea can be proven
  • Define a strict liability crime
  • Evaluate arguments for and against strict liability crimes
  • Explain that the mens rea must cause the act for there to be criminal liability (concurrences)
  • Describe the concepts of factual (but for) and legal (proximate) cause
  • Investigate how intervening cause can affect criminal liability

Week 3

Lecture: Inchoate Offences


  • Explain the concept of inchoate crimes
  • List functions of such crimes
  • Realize theactus reus/mens rea of attempt
  • Identify the impossibility defenses to attempt
  • Name the elements of conspiracy
  • Discover the actus reus/mens rea of conspiracy

Week 4

Lecture: Self-Defense


  • List the three basic kinds of defenses
  • Identify the concept of justification
  • Explain the burden of proof and the burden of persuasion
  • Determine basic rules for use of force and deadly force
  • Specify when retreat is required
  • List the rules on use of force to defend home and property and describe the choice of evils defense

Week 5

Lecture: Excuses


  • Evaluate the basic idea of excuses
  • Explain the insanity defense
  • Enumerate the basic types of insanity defenses
  • Define the defense of diminished capacity
  • Explore age as a defense
  • Interpret the duress defense
  • Consider voluntary and involuntary intoxication as a defense
  • Compare the two versions of the entrapment defense
  • Assess the use of syndromes as defense

Week 6

Lecture: Murder


  • Trace the historical development of the law of homicide
  • List the mens rea and actus reus of various types and degrees of homicide
  • Define the concept of malice aforethought
  • Describe the concept of implied malice
  • Explain the concept of felony murder
  • Differentiate between first and second degree murder
  • Compare and contrast mitigating and aggravating circumstances

Week 7

Lecture: Criminal Sexual Conduct


  • Compare the traditional and common law approaches to rape
  • Describe modern changes in the law of rape and rape prosecutions
  • Trace the controversy about whether rape is or is not a specific intent crime
  • Explain the basics of the crime of statutory rape and the mistake of age defense
  • Investigate the traditional difference between assault and battery
  • Consider the current approach to assault and battery
  • Identify the crime of kidnapping
  • Analyze the crime of false imprisonment
  • Recognize the difference between kidnapping and false imprisonment

Week 8

Lecture: Crimes Against Habitation


  • Trace the history of theft and related offenses
  • List the various types of modern theft and related offenses
  • Describe the offense of receiving stolen property
  • Compare the elements of forgery and uttering
  • Investigate the crime of robbery
  • Define the offense of extortion
  • Distinguish between robbery and extortion
  • Trace the history of the crime of burglary
  • Develop the evolution and current form of the crime of burglary
  • Discuss the basic idea of the offense of criminal trespass
  • Evaluate the crimes of arson and criminal mischief

The course description, objectives and learning outcomes are subject to change without notice based on enhancements made to the course. February 2012