North Dakota Law School 1L Study Guide for Criminal Law

North Dakota Law School 1L Study Guide for Criminal Law

Introduction to Criminal Law

Purpose and Sources of Law
– Understand the purpose of criminal law, including retribution, deterrence, incapacitation, and rehabilitation.
– Study the primary sources of criminal law: constitutional provisions, statutes (including the North Dakota Century Code), case law, and administrative regulations.

Classification of Crimes
– Differentiate between felonies, misdemeanors, and infractions.
– Recognize the distinctions in punishments and procedural rules that apply to each classification.

Elements of a Crime

Actus Reus (Criminal Act)
– Learn the concept of voluntary acts as the physical element of a crime.
– Study omissions as an actus reus when there is a legal duty to act.

Mens Rea (Criminal Intent)
– Understand different states of mind: purpose, knowledge, recklessness, and negligence.
– Study the Model Penal Code’s approach to mens rea and how it’s interpreted in North Dakota.

Strict Liability
– Identify crimes where mens rea is not required and understand the policy reasons behind strict liability offenses.

Parties to Crime

Principals and Accomplices
– Distinguish between principals, accomplices, and accessories.
– Understand North Dakota’s aiding and abetting and accomplice liability statutes.

Inchoate Offenses
– Study the requirements for attempt, solicitation, and conspiracy.
– Learn about the defenses available for inchoate crimes in North Dakota.


– Differentiate between first-degree and second-degree murder, including the required intent for each.
– Review the felony murder rule and its application in North Dakota.

– Understand the distinction between voluntary and involuntary manslaughter.
– Learn the concept of a “heat of passion” killing and how it applies under North Dakota law.

Case: State v. Guthrie (1995)
– IRAC Analysis:
Issue: Whether a defendant can be convicted of first-degree murder without a premeditated intent to kill.
Rule: North Dakota law requires premeditation for first-degree murder.
Application: In Guthrie, the defendant acted impulsively without premeditation.
Conclusion: The court held that without premeditation, the appropriate conviction was for second-degree murder or manslaughter.

Defenses to Criminal Liability

Justification and Excuse
– Study defenses that justify like self-defense and those that excuse like insanity.
– Understand North Dakota’s specific provisions for self-defense and the use of force in protecting property.

– Learn the different insanity tests, such as the M’Naghten rule, irresistible impulse, and Model Penal Code test.
– Understand North Dakota’s approach to the insanity defense.

– Distinguish between voluntary and involuntary intoxication and their implications for criminal liability.

Case: State v. McClenton (2001)
– IRAC Analysis:
Issue: Whether involuntary intoxication can be a defense to a criminal charge.
Rule: North Dakota recognizes involuntary intoxication as a potential defense.
Application: In McClenton, the defendant was involuntarily intoxicated by unknowingly consuming a drugged drink.
Conclusion: The court concluded that involuntary intoxication could negate the required mens rea for the crime.

Other Crimes

Theft and Property Crimes
– Understand the elements of larceny, embezzlement, false pretenses, and robbery.
– Review North Dakota’s statutes concerning theft, burglary, and related property offenses.

Sexual Offenses
– Study the classifications of sexual assault and rape under North Dakota law.
– Be aware of consent issues and the implications in sexual offense cases.

White-Collar Crimes
– Learn about crimes such as fraud, insider trading, and embezzlement, with a focus on the application of these laws in North Dakota.

Criminal Procedure

The North Dakota Criminal Process
– Understand the stages of the criminal process, from investigation to trial.
– Learn about the rights of the accused under the Fourth, Fifth, and Sixth Amendments and how they apply in North Dakota.

Searches and Seizures
– Study the Fourth Amendment and North Dakota law on search warrants, warrantless searches, and the exclusionary rule.

Interrogations and Confessions
– Understand the Miranda rights and the implications of the Fifth Amendment in North Dakota.

Pre-Trial, Trial, and Sentencing
– Learn about arraignment, bail, plea bargaining, and the role of the jury.
– Study sentencing guidelines and the factors that influence sentencing decisions in North Dakota.


For final exam preparation, students should review lecture notes, read and brief all assigned cases using the IRAC method, and ensure a solid understanding of the essential concepts of criminal law as applied in North Dakota. Practice exams and hypotheticals can further cement knowledge and application skills. Additionally, staying updated on any recent changes to North Dakota statutes or case law is crucial for a comprehensive understanding of the subject matter.

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