Effective: Late Fall 8-Week, 2018/2019

CJAD 301: Criminal Law

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  Course Description

Examines the basic elements and concepts of substantive criminal law, which defines such crimes as murder, rape, assault, larceny, burglary and robbery. Analysis of inchoate crimes involving attempt, solicitation, and conspiracy. Analysis of general principles of criminal liability, punishment, and the legal limitations of such liability based on self-defense, necessity, entrapment, diminished capacity and insanity.

Prerequisite: ENGL 111; sophomore standing

Proctored Exams: None


As part of TruitionSM, students will receive their course materials automatically as described below.


  •  Schmalleger, F., & Hall, D. (2017). Criminal Law Today (6th ed.). Pearson.  eText

Bookstore Information

Visit https://www.ccis.edu/bookstore.aspx for details.

eText Information

If a course uses an eText, (see Textbook information above) the book will be available directly in Desire2Learn (D2L) and through the VitalSource eText reader the Friday before the session begins, if registered for courses prior to that date.  Students will have a VitalSource account created for them using their CougarMail email address. Upon first login to VitalSource, students may need to verify their account and update their VitalSource password.  More information about how to use the VitalSource platform, including offline access to eTexts, can be found in D2L.  Students that would like to order an optional print-on-demand copy of eligible eTexts can do so through the VitalSource bookshelf at an additional cost.  Once orders are placed, it can take approximately five to seven business days for students to receive their print-on-demand books.

Physical Course Materials Information

Students enrolled in courses that require physical materials will receive these materials automatically at the address on file with Columbia College.  Delivery date of physical materials is dependent on registration date and shipping location.  Please refer to confirmation emails sent from Ed Map for more details on shipping status.

Returns: Students who drop a course with physical course materials will be responsible for returning those items to Ed Map within 30 days of receipt of the order.  More specific information on how to do so will be included in the package received from Ed Map.  See here for Ed Map's return policy. Failure to return physical items from a dropped course will result in a charge to the student account for all unreturned items.

Note: Students who opt-out of having their books provided as part of TruitionSM are responsible for purchasing their own course materials.

  Course Overview

This course focuses on the basic elements and concepts of substantive criminal law, including crimes and defenses to criminal liability. The course will offer an overview of criminal law nationally as well as regional and local variations on topics of interest.

  Technology Requirements

Participation in this course will require the basic technology for all online classes at Columbia College:
  • A computer with reliable Internet access
  • A web browser
  • Acrobat Reader
  • Microsoft Office or another word processor such as Open Office

You can find more details about standard technical requirements for our courses on our site.

  Course Learning Outcomes

  1. Articulate the history and evolution of substantive criminal law.
  2. Explain common legal terminology and methods used by professionals in the criminal justice system.
  3. Describe the elements of prominent crimes and defenses.
  4. Explain the meaning of statutes and Court decisions involving Criminal Law.
  5. Describe the constitutional and statutory limitations on criminal liability.


Grading Scale

Grade Points Percent
A 1800-2000 90-100%
B 1600-1799 80-89%
C 1400-1599 70-79%
D 1200-1399 60-69%
F 0-1199 0-59%

Grade Weights

Assignment Category Points Percent
Discussions 200 10%
Journals 300 15%
Quizzes 100 5%
Papers 900 45%
Final Exam 500 25%
Total 2000 100%

  Schedule of Due Dates

Week 1

Assignment Points Due
Discussion 1: Introductions 5 Sunday
Discussion 2: Perceptions of Criminal Law 5

Week 2

Assignment Points Due
Discussion 3: Characteristics of Criminal Offenses 10 Sunday
Discussion 4: Hate Crimes 10
Discussion 5: Dr. George Tiller 10
Journal 1 50
Quiz 1 20

Week 3

Assignment Points Due
Paper 1: Analysis of proposed legislation 100 Wednesday
Discussion 6: Cause 10 Sunday
Discussion 7: Sex Offenders 10
Discussion 8: The Watson Case 10
Journal 2 50
Quiz 2 20

Week 4

Assignment Points Due
Discussion 9: Self Defense 10 Sunday
Discussion 10: Criminal Liability 10
Discussion 11: Animal Abuse and Neglect 10
Journal 3 50
Quiz 3 20

Week 5

Assignment Points Due
Paper 2: Case Brief 100 Wednesday
Discussion 12: Insanity Defense 10 Sunday
Discussion 13: Excuse Defense 10
Discussion 14: Homicide 10
Journal 4 50
Quiz 4 20

Week 6

Assignment Points Due
Discussion 15: Domestic Violence 10 Sunday
Discussion 16: Identity Theft 10
Discussion 17: DWI 10
Journal 5 50
Quiz 5 20

Week 7

Assignment Points Due
Paper 3: Trial Summary or Interview a Criminal Justice Professional 200 Wednesday
Discussion 18: Lawrence v. Texas 10 Sunday
Discussion 19: Controlled Substances 10
Discussion 20: Terrorism and Human Trafficking 10
Journal 6 50

Week 8

Assignment Points Due
Paper 4: Movie Analysis 500 Wednesday
Discussion 21: Victim's Rights 5 Saturday
Discussion 22: Overcriminalization 5
Final Exam 500
Total Points: 2000

  Assignment Overview


There will be grade differentiation on your weekly discussion participation. Those who post early in a given week and more often within a given topic will be scored higher than those who wait until the end of a given week. When assigning grades for the discussion, I consider the quantity of posts, quality of posts, the timing of posts, follow-up posts where appropriate, and whether you read other posts. It is important for you to read the majority of the other posts in the discussion, and for you to respond to follow up questions suggested by me. See the grading rubric in the course Content area.


You will write six weekly journals discussing the readings and capstone cases. You will submit them through the course Dropbox. You will find a more detailed description of these assignments in the course Content area.


You will write four papers in this class.

Week 3: Analysis of a bill

Week 5: Case brief

Week 7: Trial summary (or a narrative describing an interview of a criminal justice professional)

Week 8: Analysis of a movie 

You will find more detailed descriptions of these assignments in the course Content area.


Quizzes will be open book and open note and will be given each week through the course site. You may take the quiz any time during the week. The quizzes will include multiple choice, true false, fill in the blank, and short answer, and essay questions.

Final Examination

The Final Examination will be posted on the course homepage in a News item, and you will submit the exam via the course Dropbox. It will include short answer and essay questions.

  Course Outline

Click on each week to view details about the activities scheduled for that week.

Chapter 1. Also read Section 1 of the Model Penal Code in Appendix B.
Discussion 1: Introductions

Introduce yourself in the "Introductions" topic of our class Discussion. Please give us more than your name. Include your profession, hobbies, interest in criminal law, and any other information that can help us get to know you.

Discussion 2: Perceptions of Criminal Law

What is your perception of what law is and how criminal law applies in modern society?

Chapter 1. Also read Section 1 of the Model Penal Code in Appendix B.
Discussion 3: Characteristics of Criminal Offenses
What characteristics differentiate a criminal offense from a civil wrong? In other words, suppose state X is considering adopting a law making conduct Y a crime. What abstract characteristics should this conduct have to justify the criminalization of the behavior? View the videos in the course content this week on social host laws.What is your opinion of laws that penalize individuals who allow minors to drink on their property? Should these "parents" face criminal punishment? Why or Why not?
Discussion 4: Hate Crimes
Locate a news story or informational web site about hate crimes, and comment on the story. How should we punish hate crime? What are the Constitutional issues with hate crime laws? Should it be a felony? Under what circumstances?
Discussion 5: Dr. George Tiller

Read a news story about the homicide of Dr. George Tiller, the Wichita doctor who was killed in his own church. Should this offense be a federal crime, a state crime, or both? Should the offenders' pro-life beliefs vis-a-vis the victim's activities be any kind of defense? Why or why not?

Journal 1

Discuss Chapter 1 including its capstone cases.

Quiz 1

Covers Chapter 1.

Chapters 2-3. Also read Sections 2.01-2.03 of the Model Penal Code in Appendix B.
Paper 1: Analysis of proposed legislation


Provide a description and analysis of proposed legislation dealing with criminal activity.  The paper should include:

  1. Identification of the bill selected (bill number and sponsor)

  2. Description (in your own words) of what the bill proposes and how it changes existing law.

  3. Description and analysis of the groups that would have an interest in the proposed legislation.

  4. Arguments in favor of and opposed to the proposed legislation.

  5. Your stand on the issue: do you support the adoption of this legislation? Why or why not?

You will find more information about the assignment in the course content.

Discussion 6: Cause

What are the differences between proximate cause and causation in fact? Can you offer an example of a real or hypothetical case where actual cause exists, but proximate cause is lacking?

Discussion 7: Sex Offenders

Sexual offender registration is a controversial topic for discussion. There are several news stories dealing with sex offenders.

  • What are the legal and practical problems with these laws?
  • Who should be required to register?
  • Should there be national uniformity? (A federal law?)
Discussion 8: The Watson Case
Read “Criminal Law in the News” on page 84 of the text. What are the legal problems with imposing criminal liability in these circumstances? What is your opinion on a prosecution in the USA of Mr. Watson?
Journal 2

Discuss Chapters 2-3 including their capstone cases.

Quiz 2

Covers Chapters 2-3.

Chapters 4-5. Also read Sections 2.04-2.07. Sections 3.01-3.09, and Section 5 of the Model Penal Code in Appendix B.
Discussion 9: Self Defense

Offer an example of a justification-based defense other than self-defense. Discuss the concepts of self-defense, defense of the home, and defense of property. Louisiana and a few other states have a law which some have termed as a “make my day” law, which allows deadly force to be used solely to protect property. In other words, you could shoot someone you observed trying to steal your car. Are these laws wise? Why or why not?

Discussion 10: Criminal Liability
Read “Criminal Law in the News” on page 118-19 of the text. What are the legal issues associated with corporate criminal liability? Should prosecutors be aggressive in prosecuting corporations for crimes? Why or Why not?
Discussion 11: Animal Abuse and Neglect

Locate a news story or informational web site about animal abuse and neglect and comment on it. How should we punish animal abuse? Animal neglect? Should it be a felony? Under what circumstances?

Journal 3

Discuss Chapters 4-5 including their capstone cases.

Quiz 3

Covers Chapters 4-5.

Chapters 6-7. Also read Sections 2.04-2.13 , Sections 4.01-4.04, and Section 210 of the Model Penal Code in Appendix B.
Paper 2: Case Brief

I will identify a criminal case in the course site. Following the format described in Appendix A of the text, prepare a case brief. Clearly label each section. This paper should be 6-10 paragraphs in length. You can find more information about the assignment in the course content.

Discussion 12: Insanity Defense

What are the various tests used for the insanity defense? Which one do you believe is best for the courts to apply? Why?

Discussion 13: Excuse Defense
Read “Criminal Law in the News” on page 181. Offer or obtain an example of an excuse-defense that strikes you as silly, absurd, inappropriate, outrageous, etc. Has our system gone overboard in allowing these defenses? Why or why not?
Discussion 14: Homicide
Review the stories/videos about the controversial homicide cases in the course content for this week. What level of homicide charge is appropriate? Why?
Journal 4

Discuss Chapters 6-7 including their capstone cases.

Quiz 4

Covers Chapters 6-7.

Chapters 8-10. Also read Sections 212- 213, 220-224, Article 230, 241, 242 and 250 of the Model Penal Code in Appendix B.
Discussion 15: Domestic Violence
Chapter 8 contains a lot of discussion about domestic violence and the law. Should domestic violence be punished as a separate crime or within existing assault laws? What about stalking? Explain. Should prosecutors press criminal charges in these cases if the victim is unwilling? Why or why not?
Discussion 16: Identity Theft
Locate a news story about identity theft and comment on it. How prominent of an offense is identity theft? How should it be punished? What can be done to reduce the occurrence of this offense?
Discussion 17: DWI

Chapter 10 contains materials on drunken driving and alcohol-related traffic offenses. Obtain a news story or visit an informational website about DWI and the criminal law. How should DWI be punished? What priority should be placed on its enforcement? Why?

Journal 5

Discuss Chapters 8-10 including their capstone cases.

Quiz 5

Covers Chapters 8-10.

Chapters 11-12. Also read Section 251 of the Model Penal Code in Appendix B.
Paper 3: Trial Summary or Interview a Criminal Justice Professional

You will have two options for this assignment: either report on observation of a jury trial or report on an interview of a criminal justice professional. You will find more details about this assignment in the course content.

Discussion 18: Lawrence v. Texas
Locate information on the Lawrence v Texas, a Supreme Court case decided a few years ago. What do you think of this decision? Should the government be involved in criminalizing private morals? Do you agree with the Supreme Court's interpretation of the Constitutional issues? Why or why not? Will there be any unintended consequences from this decision?
Discussion 19: Controlled Substances
Locate a news story or informational website concerning legal issues and controlled substances and comment on it. Do you support the legalization of some or all controlled substances? Why or Why not?
Discussion 20: Terrorism and Human Trafficking
Chapter 12 concerns Terrorism and Human Trafficking. Locate a news story or informational website about border security and the criminal law. What is the proper approach to border security? What level of government should be involved?
Journal 6

Discuss Chapters 11-12 including their capstone cases.

Chapters 13-14
Paper 4: Movie Analysis

A Crime of Insanity is available for viewing through the Stafford Library.  You will find a link in the Content area. Watch it with a view towards evaluating the insanity defense. Describe the events described in the film and your thoughts/opinions regarding same. Discuss your opinion of the prosecutors, defense attorneys, and the judge.

What is your opinion of the insanity defense after viewing this film? What is the best insanity “test” for courts to apply in assessing insanity claims and competency claims? Was Ralph Tortorici insane in your opinion? Was he competent to stand trial? You should support your discussion with at least four research sources. A suggested length for this is 18-28 paragraphs.

Discussion 21: Victim's Rights
Chapter 13 discusses the rights of victims in the criminal justice system. Should the system place a higher priority on the rights of victims? Why or why not?
Discussion 22: Overcriminalization
Do you agree that today’s society is “over criminalized?” That is, do you believe that there are too many laws regulating society’s behavior? If yes, please give examples of such laws and state why you believe they hurt society. If you do not feel that way, explain why you believe those concepts.
Final Exam

The Final Exam will be composed of short answer and essay questions. I will post the questions on the course homepage at the beginning of Week 8. You must submit your exam to the Dropbox by Saturday night.

  Course Policies

Student Conduct

All Columbia College students, whether enrolled in a land-based or online course, are responsible for behaving in a manner consistent with Columbia College's Student Conduct Code and Acceptable Use Policy. Students violating these policies will be referred to the office of Student Affairs and/or the office of Academic Affairs for possible disciplinary action. The Student Code of Conduct and the Computer Use Policy for students can be found in the Columbia College Student Handbook. The Handbook is available online; you can also obtain a copy by calling the Student Affairs office (Campus Life) at 573-875-7400. The teacher maintains the right to manage a positive learning environment, and all students must adhere to the conventions of online etiquette.

Plagiarism and Academic Integrity

Academic integrity is a cumulative process that begins with the first college learning opportunity. Students are responsible for knowing the Academic Integrity policy and procedures and may not use ignorance of either as an excuse for academic misconduct. Columbia College recognizes that the vast majority of students at Columbia College maintain high ethical academic standards; however, failure to abide by the prohibitions listed herein is considered academic misconduct and may result in disciplinary action, a failing grade on the assignment, and/or a grade of "F" for the course.

Additionally, all required papers may be submitted for textual similarity review to Turnitin.com for the detection of plagiarism. All submitted papers may be included in the Turnitin.com reference database for the purpose of detecting plagiarism. This service is subject to the Terms and Conditions of Use posted on the Turnitin.com site.


There will be no discrimination on the basis of sex, race, color, national origin, sexual orientation, religion, ideology, political affiliation, veteran status, age, physical handicap, or marital status.

Student Accessibility Resources

Columbia College is committed to creating a learning environment that meets the needs of its diverse student body. If you anticipate or experience any barriers to learning, communicate your concerns with the instructor. In addition to speaking with the instructor, the following resources are available to ensure an opportunity to learn in an inclusive environment that values mutual respect.

  • For students with disabilities/conditions who are experiencing barriers to learning or assessment, contact the Student Accessibility Resources office at (573) 875-7626 or sar@ccis.edu to discuss a range of options to removing barriers in the course, including accommodations.
  • For students who are experiencing conflict which is impacting their educational environment, contact the Office of Student Conduct at studentconduct@ccis.edu or (573) 875-7877.
  • For students who have concerns related to discrimination or harassment based on sex, gender identity, sexual orientation, pregnancy or parental status, please contact the Title IX Office at titleixcoordinator@ccis.edu. More information can be found at http://www.ccis.edu/policies/notice-of-non-discrimination-and-equal-opportunity.aspx

Online Participation

You are expected to read the assigned texts and participate in the discussions and other course activities each week. Assignments should be posted by the due dates stated on the grading schedule in your syllabus. If an emergency arises that prevents you from participating in class, please let your instructor know as soon as possible.

Attendance Policy

Attendance for a week will be counted as having submitted any assigned activity for which points are earned. Attendance for the week is based upon the date work is submitted. A class week is defined as the period of time between Monday and Sunday (except for week 8, when the work and the course will end on Saturday at midnight.) The course and system deadlines are based on the Central Time Zone.

Cougar Email

All students are provided a CougarMail account when they enroll in classes at Columbia College. You are responsible for monitoring email from that account for important messages from the College and from your instructor. You may forward your Cougar email account to another account; however, the College cannot be held responsible for breaches in security or service interruptions with other email providers.

Students should use email for private messages to the instructor and other students. The class discussions are for public messages so the class members can each see what others have to say about any given topic and respond.

Late Assignment Policy

An online class requires regular participation and a commitment to your instructor and your classmates to regularly engage in the reading, discussion and writing assignments. Although most of the online communication for this course is asynchronous, you must be able to commit to the schedule of work for the class for the next eight weeks. You must keep up with the schedule of reading and writing to successfully complete the class.

No late discussion posts will be accepted.

Late assignments will be penalized unless there are special circumstances and the late submission is approved in advance by the instructor.

Course Evaluation

You will have an opportunity to evaluate the course near the end of the session. A link will be sent to your CougarMail that will allow you to access the evaluation. Be assured that the evaluations are anonymous and that your instructor will not be able to see them until after final grades are submitted.

  Additional Resources

Orientation for New Students

This course is offered online, using course management software provided by Desire2Learn and Columbia College. The course user guide provides details about taking an online course at Columbia College. You may also want to visit the course demonstration to view a sample course before this one opens.

Technical Support

If you have problems accessing the course or posting your assignments, contact your instructor, the Columbia College Technology Solutions Center, or the D2L Helpdesk for assistance. If you have technical problems with the VitalSource eText reader, please contact VitalSource. Contact information is also available within the online course environment.

Online Tutoring

Smarthinking is a free online tutoring service available to all Columbia College students. Smarthinking provides real-time online tutoring and homework help for Math, English, and Writing. Smarthinking also provides access to live tutorials in writing and math, as well as a full range of study resources, including writing manuals, sample problems, and study skills manuals. You can access the service from wherever you have a connection to the Internet. I encourage you to take advantage of this free service provided by the college.

Access Smarthinking through CougarTrack under Students -> Academics -> Academic Resources.