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Criminal Justice

1. What are the specific aims and purposes of the criminal law? To what extent does the criminal law control behavior?

2. What kinds of activities should be labeled criminal in contemporary society? Why?

3. What is a criminal act? What is a criminal state of mind? When are individuals liable for their actions?

4. Discuss the various kinds of crime classifications. To what extent or degree are they distinguishable?

5. Numerous states are revising their penal codes. Which major categories of substantive crime do you think should be revised?

6. Entrapment is a defense when the defendant was entrapped into committing the crime. To what extent should law enforcement personnel induce the commission of an offense?

7. What legal principles can be used to justify self defense? Given that the law seeks to prevent crime, not promote it, are such principles sound?

8. What are the minimum standards of criminal procedure required in the criminal justice system?

Ex post facto laws are forbidden by the United States Constitution, and this protection prohibits the government from charging you with a crime using a law that was created after the crime was committed. If it was not a crime at the time an actor committed an act, then the actor may not be charged when the act becomes a crime. But protection against ex post facto laws effect more than just the elements of a crime, it also effects sentencing and punishment. The links below describe an unusual situation involving a cold case murder. Read the articles and discuss the questions below.

Man, 52, Is Convicted as a Juvenile in a 1976 Murder, Creating a Legal Tangle

10-year prison term imposed in cold case murder of Westfield woman

  1. Should a 52 year-old man who has eluded justice for so many years enjoy protections normally afforded juvenile defendants simply because he was 15 when he committed the crime?
  2. Why do ex post facto protections always work to the benefit of the accused regarding sentencing even when there was a more severe sentence available at the time the crime was committed?
  3. Should the law be able to punish this 52 year old man for not turning himself in for such a long period of time? Is there an amendment to the U.S. Constitution that would prevent the criminal justice system from punishing him for not confessing?
 

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