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4.2.4 Doing Legal Research: Criminal Law




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This article is from the Legal Research FAQ, by Mark Eckenwiler with numerous contributions by others.

4.2.4 Doing Legal Research: Criminal Law

Federal criminal law is scattered across several titles of
the United States Code. The bulk of federal criminal law,
however, can be found in Title 18; in addition, some of the most
commonly invoked narcotics (and forfeiture) statutes are in Title
21.

Procedure in federal criminal trials is covered by the
Federal Rules of Criminal Procedure (Fed R Crim P or FRCrP),
which can be found at the end of Title 18, United States Code.
The most important set of criminal procedure rules at the state
or federal level, however, is the Bill of Rights. With the
advent of the "incorporation" doctrine in the 20th century --
whereby the Bill of Rights, formerly applicable only to the
federal government, was applied to the states through the 14th
amendment to the Constitution -- the 4th, 5th, 6th, and 8th
amendments have assumed increased significance in all criminal
trials.

Far and away the most useful and comprehensive treatises on
various criminal law subjects are W. LaFave's blue-bound
multi-volume sets in West's Criminal Practice Series:

Search and Seizure
Criminal Law
Criminal Procedure (co-author J. Israel)

LaFave's books provide useful historical background, summaries of
significant case law (including recent developments), and comment
on unresolved questions or conflicts likely to pose the thorniest
problems in actual practice.

Other resources:

- Wright & Miller, Federal Practice & Procedure (criminal vols.)
- Titles 18 & 21, **U.S.C.A. (annotations to statutes & rules)

A diligent researcher may also wish to consult **Federal
Practice Digest (3d & 4th), especially under the subject headings
"Criminal Law" and "Constitutional Law".

Finally, the Model Penal Code -- a model codification of
criminal law principles and definitions drafted by the American Law
Institute -- has proven influential in many jurisdictions.

 

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