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  • 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.

Criminal Law

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. It focuses on several sections of MPC § 2.02 relating to minimum culpability requirements. After completing this lesson, students should understand that, except in rare cases, the MPC requires a state of mind as to every material element of an offense, and that generally recklessness is the minimum level of culpability required. Students will also obtain a working knowledge of the terminology of the MPC, including elements, material elements and the various states of mind.

Mistake as to the Law Defining the Offense

This lesson addresses the oft-stated maxim that ignorance or mistake of law is no defense and examines its relevance under the Model Penal Code. Using sample statutes and scenarios, it demonstrates that, as a general principle, no state of mind is required as to whether a defendant's conduct constitutes an offense. The Lesson explores the policies behind the rule and its "reasonable reliance" exceptions. Students have an opportunity to practice applying the various exceptions and to gain an understanding of the burden of proof regarding the reasonable reliance defense.

Mistake Under the Model Penal Code: Mistake as to Defenses

This is an advanced lesson. It assumes the student has the ability to identify the state of mind required for each element of an offense and defense based on MPC default rules of construction and has an understanding of basic principles of mistake set out in § 2.04. Using scenarios involving abandonment in burglary, choice of evils and self-defense, the lesson demonstrates how ignorance or mistake as to an element of a defense is treated under the MPC. This lesson relies heavily on MPC Commentary to explain the rules and policy behind mistake as to defenses.

Mistake Under the Model Penal Code: Mistake as to Elements of Offenses

This lesson, which assumes basic understanding of the default rules of construction, introduces the concept of mistake under the Model Penal Code. It is fairly basic in its coverage. The lesson introduces the MPC approach to mistake and relates it to common law doctrines. Using sample statutes and scenarios, it shows the relationship between the required state of mind and mistake and demonstrates how reasonableness is not generally required in MPC analysis. It then covers the difficult concepts addressed in § 2.04(2) (guilt of lesser offenses where defendant makes a "culpable" mistake) and explores the policy underpinnings of this rule. At the conclusion of the lesson, students should have an understanding of how the MPC deals with claims of ignorance and mistake. The lesson provides a separate section of review/practice questions.

Omissions

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.

Plea & Discovery

These two exercises are offered to familiarize students with what prosecuting and defense attorneys do from the time an investigation begins until trial preparation and why they do it. Special attention is given to correspondence, pleadings, and the guilty plea. The framework for both exercises is federal practice.

Pre-indictment & Charge

These two exercises are offered to familiarize students with what prosecuting and defense attorneys do from the time an investigation begins until trial preparation and why they do it. Special attention is given to correspondence, pleadings, and the guilty plea. The framework for both exercises is federal practice.

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).

Self-Defense

This is a lesson dealing with the basic justification defense of self-defense. Most of us would name self-defense as the primary justification defense; and, it is perhaps the most common or familiar of all defenses. Yet self-defense has roots in other defenses at early common law. Therefore, this lesson begins with a consideration of those roots. Moreover, there is considerable overlap between the various defenses, even when one agrees on classification. Thus, understanding the basics of self-defense is essential to understanding many or all of the justification defenses.

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