Skip to main content

Criminal Law: Home

A guide designed for first year law students on the MU Law Library's resources regarding Criminal Law

Subject Explanation

Criminal law involves prosecution by the government of a person for an act that has been classified as a crime. Civil cases, on the other hand, involve individuals and organizations seeking to resolve legal disputes. In a criminal case, the state, through a prosecutor, initiates the suit, while in a civil case the victim brings the suit. Persons convicted of a crime may be incarcerated, fined, or both. However, persons found liable in a civil case may only have to give up property or pay money, but are not incarcerated.

A "crime" is any act or omission (of an act) in violation of a public law forbidding or commanding it. Though there are some common law crimes, most crimes in the United States are established by local, state, and federal governments. Criminal laws vary significantly from state to state. 

Crimes include both felonies (more serious offenses -- like murder or rape) and misdemeanors (less serious offenses -- like petty theft or jaywalking). Felonies are usually crimes punishable by imprisonment of a year or more, while misdemeanors are crimes punishable by less than a year. However, no act is a crime if it has not been previously established as such either by statute or common law. Recently, the list of Federal crimes dealing with activities extending beyond state boundaries or having special impact on federal operations, has grown. See Title 18.

All statutes describing criminal behavior can be broken down into their various elements. Most crimes (with the exception of strict-liability crimes) consist of two elements: an act, or "actus reus," and a mental state, or "mens rea". Prosecutors have to prove each and every element of the crime to yield a conviction. Furthermore, the prosecutor must persuade the jury or judge "beyond a reasonable doubt" of every fact necessary to constitute the crime charged. 

Text and links copied from LII's (Cornell University Law School) Criminal Law page.  Links will take you to definitions and/or further explanations of the terms highlighted by Cornell Law.

CALI Lessons

CALI Tutorials are interactive, computer-based lessons, written by law faculty and librarians.  The lessons and practice questions can be used as preparation for class or as review for an exam.  This link provides access to lessons on Criminal law. 

 

Wolters Kluwer Online Study Aids

DISCLAIMER:  Please remember that supplemental materials are meant to enhance, not replace, the assigned classroom material. If you have a question whether a particular supplement may be useful as a classroom or exam prep aid then ask your professor for guidance.  And, as always, you can ask a librarian for assistance.  More information regarding Mizzou Law Library online study aid subscriptions can be found here

Hard copies of many of the study aids listed below are located in the Reference Room on the first floor of the library.  Please note that the study aids online are generally more up to date than the hard copies.

West Academic Online Study Aids

West Academic Online Audio Study Aids

Study Aids Located in the Reserve Room

Westlaw Next

Wharton's Criminal Law gives an overview of criminal law and how it varies in different jurisdictions.

Missouri Practice Series, Criminal Law gives an overview of Missouri's criminal law.

Lexis Advance

Missouri Bar CLE on Criminal Practice focuses primarily on criminal procedure but also describes defenses to criminal charges.

CrimProf Blog

Loading