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This Criminal law textbook made available by was originally published in 2012. Keep in mind that certain concepts about the law are timeless, however, the law changes daily. One of the purposes of legal research is to discover whether certain laws or court rulings are still valid law.

Although, the primary purpose of is providing self-help legal information, when charged with a crime, we do not recommend you represent yourself. Unless there is no other choice, you should never defend yourself in a situation where jail time is a consequence and your freedom is at stake. However, this is the most important time to understand the law, your options and potential consequences.

If you have been charged with a misdemeanor or a felony, the 6th Amendment to the U.S. Constitution guarantees that the court will provide you with a lawyer (a “public defender”) if you are unable to afford one for yourself. In Gideon v. Wainwright, 372 US 335 (1963).

It's obvious to most that our law enforcement and legal system is broken. Our broken justice system disproportanately impacts poor and minority populations. Don't wait until you have a legal crisis, use some of your extra free time to become more familiar with the law.

The law affects each of our daily lives. Studying law is not just for legal professionals. Basic knowledge of the law provides understanding of fundamental rights and empowers us with reason instead of fear in adverse situations.  For instance, if you were detained by a police officer without having committed any crime and were threatened with arrest, you're likely to plead with them not to arrest you as you have done nothing wrong. But when you're empowered with knowledge and know that you cannot be arrested without a reasonable cause, then you behave differently instead of pleading. 

Unfortunately, the law is neither fair nor just, but it's the only system we have. The more familiar you are with our legal system, the better your chances for a favorable outcome. 

Licensing Information

This Criminal Law book was adapted by under a Creative Commons Attribution-NonCommercial-ShareAlike 3.0 License without attribution as requested by the work's original creator or licensor. would like to thank Andy Schmitz for his work in maintaining and improving the HTML versions of these textbooks. This textbook is adapted from his HTML version, and his project can be found here.

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