Academics and Clinicals
One of the Most Fundamental Roles Played by Traditional Lawyers
For many Americans, criminal law is what law means. In the United States, lawyers have always prosecuted and defended serious criminal matters. Today, criminal law is an important and distinct specialty practice area. Prosecutors and District Attorneys (federal, state, and local) are public employees who prosecute criminal violations on behalf of the State. Criminal defense can be either private or public; public defenders are public employees who represent those accused of crimes, but cannot afford a private lawyer. Criminal lawyers are the ultimate trial lawyers. Of all lawyers, they are also the most likely to deal regularly with fundamental issues of security, personal liberty, and constitutional rights.
In their first semester of law school, students will study Criminal Law, the substantive law of crime. After the first year they will study evidence, criminal procedure, and should study trial practice. Numerous advanced courses are also available in white collar crime, juvenile law, criminal justice administration, the death penalty, and transnational and international criminal law.
Learn Beyond the Classroom
Participating in an externship program in judicial process and/or criminal justice is virtually essential to those interested in becoming a criminal lawyer. Prosecution and public defender offices usually require past experience in the office as a prerequisite for employment after graduation. King Hall's well-developed and extensive externship programs, a part of the curriculum throughout the School's history, offer many wonderful experiences which may include prosecuting minor crimes under a district attorney's supervision. Participating in trial practice or moot court competitions will also help develop the skills basic to the courtroom-based work of criminal lawyers.
Criminal law and procedure students may also want to participate in organizations and journals that concentrate on criminal law.
Deputy Attorney General
Criminal Division, Trial Team
Criminal Law and Procedure Courses
Elective courses are offered on a rotating basis. Not all courses will be taught in any given year. Please check the Course Descriptions webpage for current course offerings.
The Criminal Law curriculum provides students with an overview of the criminal justice system through basic courses in criminal law and procedure, while advanced courses explore theoretical issues related to society's definition of criminal behavior and the establishment and enforcement of the criminal justice system. The following represents a selected list of courses:
- Criminal Justice Administration Seminar
- Criminal Procedure
- Death Penalty
- International Criminal Law
- Juvenile Justice Seminar
- Legal Psychology Seminar
- Privatization of Criminal Justice Seminar
- Transnational Criminal Law
- White Collar Crime
Earn Additional Advanced Degrees
UC Davis is recognized for excellence in graduate studies and the professions. Law students can take advantage of opportunities to complete combined degree programs in conjunction with the nationally recognized Graduate School of Management (http://www.gsm.ucdavis.edu ) or most Master's Degree programs offered by the campus (http://gradstudies.ucdavis.edu ).
Join a Network of Graduates with Diverse, Rewarding Careers
A popular career path, UC Davis law graduates who have an interest in criminal law and procedure are found in district attorney and public defender offices throughout California and nearby states. UC Davis law graduates are prominent in all criminal law practice areas, both trial and appellate, most notably with the California Attorney General's office - the largest single employer of UC Davis law grads, the U.S. Attorneys' offices, and in very well-regarded private criminal defense practices. Other practitioners are heads of criminal justice organizations, are part of the military justice system, and have international criminal law practices. One recent graduate, an Assistant U.S. Attorney (AUSA) will soon be doing criminal justice work in Baghdad. Criminal law practice is the leading path to the judiciary (and occasionally political office), and you can find former criminal law practitioners in trial and appellate judgeships in California and federal judgeships nationally.