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Criminal law attorneys often work as state or federal prosecutors, public defenders, private defense attorneys, business counselors, and judges. To prepare for one of these careers, students should recognize the dual goals of learning the criminal law while also developing trial skills. The pathway includes fundamental criminal law topics, skills courses, and clinical courses that place students directly in the courtroom.

Criminal Law Resources

Criminal Law Faculty

Criminal Law Path View

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  • Core Course

    Evidence

    3 Credit (Required)

    Surveys the law of evidence applied in the federal trial courts with some comparison with state courts of superior jurisdiction. Case law and code sources are considered with special emphasis placed on the Federal Rules of Evidence. Among the topics treated are the mechanics of presenting and objecting to evidence, relevance, competency and privilege, character evidence, impeachment, hearsay and the major exceptions thereto, expert testimony and scientific evidence, judicial notice, and the burdens of proof and presumptions.

  • Recommended Course

    Negotiation

    3 Credit (Professional Skills)

    Explores the theory and the art of resolving conflict through negotiation. Various styles are presented for comparison and analysis. Students are urged to evaluate their own intuitive style and to experience others. Practical experience is achieved through one-on-one and group negotiations exercises. The theory of conflict, strategic choice, ethical issues, and the negotiator's dilemma are presented in a variety of substantive contexts. Please check the most recent course registration information to determine if this course meets the Experiential Education/Professional Skills requirement.

  • Other Course

    Domestic Violence

    2 Credit (Elective)

    The course addresses partner-violence issues in the legal system, including the consequences for children, focusing, initially, on those issues relating to civil orders of protection; prosecution and defense of criminal charges; and divorce, custody, and child support, along with the role of the Department of Children and Families. In the final third of the course, students choose other legal issues in partner-violence cases to present to the class. Presentations in earlier years have included such topics as immigration, cyberstalking, religious law, housing, and evidence issues that are significant in partner-violence cases. Students will be encouraged to consider how issues of race, class, ethnicity, and gender affect the analyses.

  • Other Course

    Juvenile Law

    2 Credit (Elective)

    Explores the primary methods by which the state defines and controls juvenile delinquency in our society. Through the study of case law, students are exposed to the history and philosophy of the juvenile justice system and to the concept of juvenile delinquency. In particular, focus is given to the unique juvenile court, its roles as a legal system and as a social welfare system, and a comparative analysis of juvenile law and process. Also explored are dependency, neglect, and diversion programs.

  • Other Course

    Sexual Violence and Law Reform

    2 Credit (Professional Skills)

    Focuses on how the legal system treats victims of sexual violence and explores strategies for change. The class explores the historical development of the crime of rape and related criminal sexual violence laws. The class then examines modern evidentiary principles and trial strategies employed in sexual assault cases, including "special rules" applicable only to sexual assault cases, such as "rape shield laws" and "fresh complaint testimony." The course ends with an exploration of strategies for change, focusing on particular classes of victims, including victims of domestic violence, sexual violence, and children.

    This course may be offered every other year.

  • Other Course

    Wrongful Convictions

    2 Credit (Elective)

    This 2-credit seminar considers wrongful convictions in the US criminal justice system. Its focus is (1) assessing the significance of the risk that a person will be or has been convicted or punished for a crime he or she did not commit; (2) identifying systemic, case-specific, procedural, and other factors that may affect this risk; and (3) exploring roles police, prosecutors, defense lawyers, judges, politicians, and journalists may play in wrongful convictions. Specific topics may include: Civil Remedies, Innocence and the Death Penalty, Eyewitness Identification, Exculpatory Evidence, False Confessions, Forensic Scientific Evidence, Jailhouse Informants, Ineffective Counsel, Litigating Innocence Claims, Role of Race and Ethnicity in Wrongful Convictions, and Prosecutorial and Defense Ethics and Innocence. Readings include articles, book excerpts, reports, studies, and cases. Requirements: Students must (1) submit a one-page weekly response to the assigned readings; (2) lead class discussion on one topic or class meeting; and (3) submit a 15-20 page research paper on an approved topic, with grades to be based upon a combination of these components. Optional additional component: The course provides an optional 1-credit or 2-credit additional component, in which students examine cases of alleged wrongful convictions referred by the New England Innocence Project. Casework includes reviewing transcripts, discovery and other materials, identifying issues for further investigation, and preparing research memoranda for presentation to a committee of practitioners. Other additional work may involve preparation of relevant briefs. The number of credits (1 credit for 5 hours work/week and 2 credits for 10 hours work/week) and of student positions depends upon case availability. Credits are awarded on a pass-fail basis, dependent upon satisfactory completion of case work.

  • Core Course

    Criminal Procedure I

    3 Credit (Required)

    Explores the procedural limitations placed on police practices by federal and state constitutions and statutes. In particular, the course examines the law of search and seizure, pretrial identification, electronic surveillance, the right against self-incrimination, and such pretrial interrogation concerns as Miranda rights and the right to counsel. The development and present application of the exclusionary rule constitutes the central unifying theme of the course.

  • Core Course

    Criminal Advocacy

    3 Credit (Professional Skills)

    Other Stage Two Options:

    Trial Practice

    This simulation course uses oral and written exercises from a case file to show the relationship between strategic and tactical decisions of counsel in the processing of a criminal case. The course will explore the relationship between issues of substantive criminal law, criminal procedure, evidence, ethics, and trial advocacy. Students will examine a variety of questions, such as challenges to the charging decision, suppression of evidence, discovery questions, motions in limine and motions to admit. Each issue will be addressed in two-week segments, with one week devoted to brainstorming approaches, and a second week of presenting written and oral arguments and conducting hearings on these questions. Please check the most recent course registration information to determine if this course meets the Experiential Education/Professional Skills requirements.

  • Core Course

    Trial Practice

    2 or 3 Credit (Professional Skills)

    Other Stage Two Options:

    Criminal Advocacy

    This skills course is designed to prepare students for the trial phase of litigation. Although it presumes prior knowledge of the substantive areas of law covered during the first two years of law school, especially evidence, the course itself concentrates on trial procedure and the development of jury trial advocacy skills. Students conduct complete mock trials in which they participate as parties, witnesses, and counsel. Problems faced by students acting as counsel include jury selection, opening statements, closing arguments, examination of witnesses-including opinion testimony, offers of exhibits, objections to evidence, and impeachment of witnesses. Mock trial exercises are critiqued by the instructor and class members. Consideration also is given to client interviews, investigation, discovery, pleadings, pretrial motions, and the preservation of rights to appeal. Please check the most recent course registration information to determine if this course meets the Experiential Education/Professional Skills requirement.

  • Recommended Course

    Clinical Evidence

    3 Credit (Professional Skills)

    This is an advanced course that emphasizes the practical application of principles and rules of evidence. It is founded on the premise that trial lawyers should know the rules of evidence and understand how to use them in the courtroom to their advantage and on the realization that the rules affect both tactical and substantive decisions about the presentation of a case. This course is for students who seek either a more thorough and practical foundation in the field of evidence or who plan to become trial advocates. Please check the most recent course registration information to determine if this course meets the Experiential Education/Professional Skills requirements.

  • Recommended Course

    Mental Health Law

    2 Credit (Elective)

    Explores the interrelations between law and mental disabilities. Topics include the insanity defense, use of psychiatric expert testimony, competence to stand trial, use of indeterminate sentencing for "dangerous" offenders and predicting "dangerousness" civil commitment, rights of mental patients, use of psychotropic medication, and psychiatrist/patient privilege.

    This course may be offered every other year.

  • Core Course

    Criminal Procedure II

    2/3 Credit (Elective)

    Examines the legal issues that arise in the various stages of criminal adjudication, including standards for pretrial release, prosecutorial discretion, speedy trial, discovery, pleading, restraints on publicity, the right of confrontation, jury composition, sentencing, double jeopardy, and collateral attack. When appropriate, the effect of the Federal Rules of Criminal Procedure are studied. Prerequisites or corequisites: Criminal Procedure I and Evidence. Please check the most recent course registration information to determine if this course meets the Experiential Education/Professional Skills Requirement.

  • Core Course

    Criminal Procedure II Clinic

    3 Credit (Clinic)

    This clinical component enables students to handle aspects of the actual prosecution or defense of misdemeanors in the state District Courts. Students spend 15 hours per week handling cases under the supervision of assistant district attorneys or public defenders. By court rule, this clinic is limited to students in their last year of law school. Students must keep at least one full day, and preferably two, clear for their fieldwork, since they must be available an entire day to handle cases. Students will submit weekly journals, describing and reflecting on their experiences in the field, and will meet in a series of seminars with the course instructor and/or the Clinical Director to explore the relationship between the principles covered in the substantive class and the students' fieldwork. NOTE: ELIGIBILITY FOR SOME PLACEMENTS IN THIS COURSE, AND FOR SJC RULE 3:03 CERTIFICATION, IS DEPENDENT ON SUCCESSFUL COMPLETION OF A BACKGROUND CHECK. This course satisfies the Experiential Education/Professional Skills Requirement.

  • Recommended Course

    Criminal Defense Ethics

    Credit (Elective)

    This course examines the ethical responsibilities and associated constitutional obligations of criminal defense lawyers. Topics will include the role of defense counsel in the adversary system, client confidentiality, perjury and the duty of candor, duties to third parties, physical evidence, conflicts of interest, and the jurisprudence of ineffective assistance of counsel. Heavy emphasis will be placed on weekly readings and discussion of multimedia materials, including film and TV portrayals of practicing defense lawyers. Students will be evaluated on class preparation and participation, as well as a course paper.

    This course may be offered every other year.

  • Recommended Course

    Prosecutorial Ethics

    2 Credit (Elective)

    Examines the ethical responsibilities and obligations of the criminal prosecutor. Each class will include a discussion of selected readings and issues related to the various stages of the criminal process. Students should be familiar with the pertinent Model Rules of Professional Conduct and ABA Criminal Justice Standards discussed in the text. Students will be evaluated on class preparation and participation, as well as a course paper.

    This course may be offered every other year.

  • Other Course

    Massachusetts Evidence

    3 Credit (Professional Skills)

    This course will develop student's ability to admit and exclude evidence under Massachusetts Evidence Law. Massachusetts Evidence Law is an amalgam of the common law, statutes, rules of procedure, and the federal and state constitution. There are sharp and significant differences between the Federal Rules of Evidence that students learn in a basic Evidence course and the law of evidence applied in the common law courts of the Commonwealth of Massachusetts. Students, therefore, are unprepared to try a case in Massachusetts only having learned evidence under the Federal Rules. This course will compare and contrast the law of evidence under the Federal Rules with the law in Massachusetts. Additionally, students will draft and argue motions in limine and perform mock exercises offering and objecting to evidence, arguing evidentiary matters to the court, and protecting the record for appeal. Each of these exercises will be directed toward an area of Massachusetts Evidence Law that differs from the law under the Federal Rules. Please check the most recent course registration information to determine if this course meets the Experiential Education/Professional Skills requirements.

    This course may be offered every other year.

  • Other Course

    White Collar Crime

    2 Credit (Elective)

    This course will review the building blocks of white collar crime prosecution and defense, including the basic types of white collar crime and the statutes that address them. Students also will grapple with the legal issues that government enforcement attorneys on both sides are currently addressing, including the benefits and limits of enterprise criminal liability, the role of counsel, and the increasingly international nature of white collar crime. Finally, the course will explore the perceived differences between :white collar" crime and "blue collar" crime, and whether those perceptions are accurate. This course will require frequent class participation, occasional preparation of class problems for discussion, and a research paper.

    This course may be offered every other year.