Basics of Criminal Law

Basics of Criminal Law


Welcome to Lawshelf’s video-course on the basics of criminal law. This video-course surveys crimes and their punishments under the state and federal justice systems in the United States. We’ll focus on the natures and elements of the most common crimes and criminal law defenses.

This is an introductory level course and no prior knowledge of law or criminal law is required.

We’ll start the course by looking at the reasons for punishing crime and the various states of mind that are necessary to establish criminal culpability. We’ll also look at constitutional limitations on criminal law, including due process and the “cruel and unusual punishment” prohibition. We’ll also look at the sources of criminal law, including state statutes, case law and the Model Penal Code.

In module 2, we’ll look at “inchoate” crimes, which are crimes that are punishable even if the criminal acts contemplated are never carried out or completed. These include conspiracy, attempt, solicitation, facilitation and incitement. We’ll also discuss the after-the-fact crime of obstruction of justice.

In modules 3 and 4, we’ll turn to discussions of specific crimes. In module 3, we’ll look at violent crimes, such as homicide, rape, assault and arson. In module 4, we’ll turn to financial crimes, including theft, robbery, burglary, extortion and forgery.

In our final module, we’ll turn to defenses to criminal charges. We’ll discuss the requirements and limitations to many of these. They include self-defense, defense of others, necessity, duress, consent, insanity, diminished capacity, mistake, infancy and entrapment.

When you complete this course, you should have a broad understanding of crimes and the framework on which our criminal justice system works. This will make more advanced courses, such as white-collar crime and those that discuss complex criminal laws such as securities fraud, easier to understand and apply.

Best of luck and we welcome your feedback!

What is a video-course?

A LawShelf video-course is an in-depth series of presentations on a discreet legal topic. LawShelf video-courses focus on practical legal information and applications and are each designed to familiarize the viewer with a legal topic quickly and efficiently.

Who should take a video-course?

Our video courses are designed for professionals such as attorneys, paralegals, corporate officers and financial professionals, as well as laypeople looking to deepen their knowledge of particular areas of law. The courses allow you to acquire the specific knowledge and skills that you need without the expense and time commitment of going “back to school” for a degree. 

How do I learn?

Video courses are divided into 5 or 6 modules.  Each module contains a video lesson (usually about 15 minutes long) and a series of self-test questions that you can use to practice and make sure that you understand the material.

How do I complete a video-course?

To complete a video-course, you must pass a 10-question multiple-choice examination by scoring 70% or higher.  The questions on the exam are randomly selected from the self-test question sets for the various modules. You can retake an exam as many times as you need to, though you will not get the same questions each time since the questions are drawn from an exam bank.

How long will it take me to complete a video-course?

Between watching the modules, doing the self-test practice questions, reviewing the material and taking the final exam, we estimate that completing a video-course requires a time investment of 4-5 hours.  The courses are designed to get straight to the point. We’re cognizant that your time is valuable, and we condense the information you need to know to comprehensively cover a subject into as little time as practical.

Is there limit to how many video-courses I can take or complete?

No. A LawShelf subscription enables you to access any and all LawShelf content, including all video-courses. You can take courses as quickly or slowly as your time allows.

Do I receive any recognition for completing a video-course?

Once you complete the course by passing the final exam, you will be awarded a digital badge to display as evidence of your training and accomplishment.

How will a digital badge help me? 

Modern educational trends are moving away from traditional classroom-based course completion models and towards skills-based education. Employers today care more about skills than ever before. LawShelf digital badges conform to the Open Badge standard and are verifiable records of your skills that can easily be shared online.

How long do I retain access to the course materials?

You retain access the modules and take the final exam as long as you are a subscriber to LawShelf.

Overview of Criminal Law - Module 1 of 5

Inchoate Offenses - Module 2 of 5

Violent Crimes - Module 3 of 5

Financial Crimes - Module 4 of 5

Defenses - Module 5 of 5

Final Exam only needs to be taken by those seeking to earn the Digital Badge credentials for this course.