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!


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.