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Criminal Law & Procedure  

Introduction To Researching Criminal Law & Procedure
Last Updated: Feb 27, 2015 URL: Print Guide RSS Updates

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About This Guide

About This Guide

This guide was created by Research Assistant Lesley Niebel, SU COL 2015. It came about as a result of a research project Lesley did for the Library's Reference Department, through input and assistance by law library reference librarians.


Starting Your Reserach


This research guide on criminal law & procedure lists a variety of resources in print or electronic format that can found in the Law Library and on the internet.  It is divided into several parts as set forth in the Table of Contents.  These resources are useful for citations and serve as a basic starting point for your research in criminal law and procedure. For online access to comparable resources found in either Westlaw, Lexis, or other law library electronic resources, please consult with a reference librarian.




Criminal law is the process by which the prosecution by the government brings an action against an individual for an act that has been classified as a crime.  See Black’s Law Dictionary 431 (9th ed. 2009).  A “crime” is categorized as any act or omission (of an act) in violation of a public law forbidding or commanding it.  See id. at 427.  Most crimes in the United States are determined by local, state, and federal governments, although there still exists some common law crimes.  Crimes can be classified as either a felony (a serious offense) or a misdemeanor (a less serious offense).  Id. at 694, 1089.  Felonies are crimes punishable by a term of imprisonment of one year or more, whereas misdemeanors are punishable by a term of imprisonment of less than one year.  Most crimes consist of two elements: an act and a mental state.  Id.  As a consequence, at trial the prosecution must prove every element of the crime beyond a reasonable doubt to secure a conviction.  Individuals convicted of crimes face possible incarceration, fines, or both.


Criminal Procedure is the set of laws that govern the series of proceedings by which the government enforces substantive criminal law.  A criminal case begins when police officers arrest an individual.  The judge will set bail on the arrestee, which is an amount of money that incites the defendant to return to court or else risk forfeiting that amount.  Then the charged defendant is brought before a judge in what is called arraignment. Black’s Law Dictionary 123.  At arraignment, the accused is read the criminal charges against them, where the accused is asked if he or she has access to an attorney or if one needs to be appointed, where the initial plea is entered, where the initial bail amount is set, and the schedule for future court dates are laid out.  See id.   Next is the preliminary hearing.  At the preliminary hearing stage, a judge decides whether the prosecution has enough evidence to make the defendant stand trial or met its burden of persuasion.  See id at 1299.  Pre-trial conferences follow preliminary hearings.  At this juncture, the prosecution and defense file motions before a judge. These motions can include, suppressing evidence, statements, or whether certain individuals can testify.  After all of these different stages, the defendant stands trial.  Subsequent to trial, sentencing occurs.


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