California Criminal Law focuses on the law of a single jurisdiction, with an emphasis on cases and problems as a vehicle for teaching students how to read and understand cases and statutes and construct legal arguments. Each chapter begins with an introduction, to give background to the cases and outline the issues to be explored. The cases are presented in relatively complete form, often with concurring or dissenting opinions, to give students examples of fully developed legal arguments. The 100 short problems are all taken from real cases and ask the students to develop the appropriate legal arguments based on the preceding cases. Notes, which have been kept to a minimum, are generally used to extend the students' analysis by asking them to consider policy issues raised by the cases or alternatives to the California law presented in the cases.
The book is divided into five parts. Part I introduces the course by examining the purposes of the criminal law and the constitutional framework within which legislatures define crimes and punishments. Part II addresses the elements of crimes, in general, and as to particular categories of crimes. Part III covers affirmative defenses, and Part IV covers vicarious liability. Part V concludes with a chapter on the death penalty. The Fourth Edition includes six new cases, as well as a number of new problems, reflecting the authors' commitment to teaching the current law. The book is suitable for a 3-hour or 4-hour course.