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Criminal Law

Welcome to Criminal Law.  While the textbook for this class relies heavily on the Model Penal Code, we will be focusing on California criminal laws and their interpretation by the California courts.  The criminal codes often do not mean what they seem to say.  Some have been struck down by the courts as unconstitutional, but never removed from the code book, and the meaning of the words in many codes has been twisted and turned in ways probably never imagined by the legislators who created the laws.  I have found that the simplest way for students to understand court interpretations of the law is by looking at jury instructions.  Jury instructions are made to be fairly easy to understand by non-lawyers and so they are well suited to this introductory class.  They condense court decisions as they relate to legal intent, the elements of criminal codes, and how they should be applied in the courtroom. 

Links to the codes and jury instructions are to the left.  I strongly suggest that you download the entire book of jury instructions (as a .pdf) at the link provided and store it on your thumbdrive.  The Codes link is searchable.  If you know the code and section number, just click on the code and hit search, which will give you an index for that code. 

There are quite a few short papers required in this class.  Do not miss any papers or you will have great difficulty digging yourself out of that grade hole.  These papers require that you research and interpret the law, not your own beliefs.  No one in the criminal justice system is interested in uninformed opinions (it is probably the case that no one anywhere is interested in uninformed opinions, but they seem to be quite common anyway), so writing two pages telling me how you were raised to think, or what your grandmother believes to be true, or how you think the system should act, will probably get you an "F" for your lack of effort.  In fact, "I think" should not be written anywhere in your papers.  Just do the research and tell me the facts and how they apply to the problem presented to you.  See the link on the left panel for directions on writing essays.






Christopher Bruno



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