Indiana Law School 1L Study Guide for Criminal Law

Indiana Law School 1L Study Guide for Criminal Law

Introduction to Criminal Law

Purpose of Criminal Law: Understand the fundamental purposes of criminal law, including deterrence, incapacitation, retribution, rehabilitation, and restorative justice.

Elements of a Crime

Actus Reus (Guilty Act): Know the definition and be able to identify the physical act of a crime or the unlawful omission of an act that one is under a legal duty to perform.

Mens Rea (Guilty Mind): Understand the various mental states required for different crimes, such as intention, knowledge, recklessness, and negligence.

Strict Liability: Learn about crimes that do not require proof of mens rea and the policy reasons behind imposing strict liability.

Causation: Be familiar with both factual causation (“but-for” causation) and legal causation (proximate cause), and the ability to apply these concepts to various scenarios.

Concurrence: Grasp the notion that the actus reus and mens rea must coincide in time.


Murder: Know the different degrees of murder, particularly how Indiana distinguishes between them.

Voluntary Manslaughter: Understand the concept of a killing that occurs in the “heat of passion.”

Involuntary Manslaughter: Learn when a killing is considered involuntary, such as during the commission of a crime or through negligence.

Felony Murder: Familiarize with the concept where a death occurs during the commission or attempted commission of a felony.

Non-Homicidal Offenses

Assault and Battery: Differentiate between assault (attempt or threat) and battery (unlawful physical contact).

Sexual Offenses: Be aware of the definitions and elements of various sexual offenses under Indiana law.

Theft and Robbery: Know the distinctions between theft (taking someone’s property with the intent to permanently deprive them of it) and robbery (theft involving force or threat of force).

Burglary: Understand the unauthorized entry into a building with the intent to commit a crime inside.

Arson: Learn about the willful and malicious burning of property.

Inchoate Crimes

Attempt: Study the act of taking substantial steps towards committing a crime, with the intent to commit the crime but falling short of completing it.

Conspiracy: Grasp the agreement between two or more people to commit a criminal act.

Solicitation: Know the act of requesting, encouraging, or demanding someone else to engage in criminal conduct.

Defenses to Criminal Liability

Insanity: Familiarize with Indiana’s test for insanity and its application in criminal cases.

Intoxication: Distinguish between voluntary and involuntary intoxication as defenses.

Self-Defense: Understand when and how self-defense can be claimed, including the duty to retreat in Indiana.

Defense of Others: Know the principles governing the use of force in defense of others.

Necessity and Duress: Learn the circumstances under which these defenses may apply.

Entrapment: Study the concepts of subjective and objective entrapment and their application in Indiana law.

Parties to Crime

Principals and Accomplices: Distinguish between individuals who directly commit the offense and those who aid, abet, or encourage the principal.

Accessory After the Fact: Understand the liability of a person who assists a criminal after a crime has been committed.

Criminal Procedure

Search and Seizure: Familiarize with the Fourth Amendment and the requirements for a lawful search and seizure under Indiana law.

Arrest: Know the legal standards for a lawful arrest, including the requirements for arrest warrants.

Confessions and Interrogations: Study the Fifth Amendment’s protection against self-incrimination and the Miranda rights.

Right to Counsel: Understand the Sixth Amendment’s guarantee of the right to counsel during criminal proceedings.

Pretrial Procedures: Be aware of the processes involved in charging, bail, preliminary hearings, and pretrial motions.

Trial: Learn the trial process, including jury selection, burden of proof, and the right to a fair and speedy trial.

Sentencing: Understand the factors and guidelines that influence sentencing decisions in Indiana.

Appeals: Familiarize with the grounds for an appeal and the appellate process.

Case Law

Mens Rea Case Sample – Morissette v. United States (1952):
Issue: Whether the defendant’s knowledge of the property belonging to another is required for conviction under the theft statute.
Rule: Knowledge is a necessary element for a theft conviction.
Analysis: The Court held that mens rea is an essential element of theft offenses.
Conclusion: Morissette’s conviction was reversed because the jury was not instructed on the necessity of finding that he knew the property was not abandoned.

Self-Defense Case Sample – Goetz v. State (1986):
Issue: The extent to which self-defense can justify the use of deadly force.
Rule: A person may use deadly force if they reasonably believe it necessary to prevent death or serious bodily harm.
Analysis: The court considered whether Goetz’s belief in the necessity of force was reasonable.
Conclusion: The court remanded the case for a new trial to assess the reasonableness of Goetz’s belief.

When studying these cases and legal concepts, always ensure to link them back to the specific statutes and rules of Indiana. Also, keep abreast of any recent changes in legislation or significant court decisions that could affect the application of criminal law in Indiana.

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