Welcome to Professor John Inazu’s Criminal Law course site. This course provides an introduction to the rules and principles of basic criminal law. The summaries and review questions on this site are licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution-NonCommercial 4.0 International License.
1. Learn the statutes and cases that constrain and shape the criminal law.
2. Gain a basic understanding of the theory and policy underlying the criminal law.
3. Develop an ability to interpret statutory provisions.
We have three principal texts for this course:
1. Joshua Dressler, Understanding Criminal Law (Eighth Edition).
2. A course supplement.
3. This website, which includes summaries and review questions for each unit. The summaries are intended to give you a helpful overview of the core topics that we cover in each unit. You should outline answers to the review questions before each class.
The course supplement and some of the review questions are based upon materials in Joshua Dressler, Cases and Materials on Criminal Law (Fifth Edition).
Attendance and Class Participation
I expect you to be prepared, present, and on time for class. If you are unable to attend class on a given day (or are unprepared but would still like to attend class), you will need to email me (and copy my assistant, Rachel Mance) in advance of class. Emailing me in advance of class will result in being marked for one absence (and if you are in attendance, I won’t call on you). Absent extreme extenuating circumstances, failing to email me in advance of a class for which you are absent or in which you demonstrate clear lack of preparedness will result in being marked for two absences. You may have up to four absences for any reason. (This means four absences with advance notice to me, two unexcused absences, or some combination of the preceding.) Absent extraordinary circumstances, more than four absences may adversely affect your final grade.
This class will include regular interaction with your classmates. During some of our class sessions, we will break into assigned small groups, in which you will spend 10-15 minutes discussing the readings or a problem that I give to you.
The purpose of these groups is threefold. First, they encourage active participation by more members of the class than the Socratic method allows. Second, they serve as an accountability check to ensure that you engage with the readings before class. Finally, they allow you to practice discussing ideas and making points to a small group of people under a compressed time frame (these are lawyer skills).
Each of you will need to visit and observe activities in a local (non-federal) criminal courtroom at some point during the semester. You may go in groups or individually, and you may choose any local courthouse that you’d like (St. Louis or a surrounding county or municipality). You should sit in the courtroom for at least thirty minutes. Be sure that you find a criminal (not a civil) proceeding. Prior visits or visits to a courthouse outside the St. Louis area will not satisfy this requirement.
At the conclusion of your visit, you should send me a one-page memo letting me know where you went and describing your experience. You should send the memo as an email attachment and copy Rachel Mance on your email to me to receive credit for your visit. (Rachel will confirm receipt of your email). Your memos are due to me no later than one week before the last class of the semester. Your memo should conform to my writing guidelines.
Exam and Course Grade
Your course grade will be determined by: (1) your class participation; and (2) a four-hour, in-class, open book final exam.
I will base your class participation component on my evaluation of your interactions, preparedness, and thoughtfulness. Excellent class participation may improve your overall course grade. Poor participation (including excessive absences) may lower your overall course grade. Failure to complete the courthouse visit will lower your overall course grade.
Computer and Phone Use
Laptop computers are not permitted in class unless you have an approved medical exception.
You may not use your phones during our class for any reason. This includes discrete and not-so-discrete efforts to check texts or emails during class.
You are not permitted to record our classes. If you have an extenuating circumstance that requires you to miss multiple classes, please ask me in advance about having the law school record classes.
Students who violate the computer or phone use policy may have their semester grades lowered.
I do not have set office hours, but I am available to meet throughout the semester. Please schedule appointments through this site. If you are unable to find a time online that works with your schedule, you can email me to set up a time.
Feel free to email me with any questions or concerns. I will make every effort to respond to your emails within one day of your having sent them, with the exception of emails sent over the weekend or holidays, which I will answer by the following business day. If I think that the entire class may benefit from the answer to your question, I will answer in class. Please accept the classroom discussion in lieu of a personalized response.
Frequently Asked Questions
I have included on this site my answers to frequently asked questions. Please review them carefully.