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About the Book

Defining Crimes

Front Cover - Defining Crimes

Third Edition


William J. Stuntz
Late of Harvard University

Joseph L. Hoffman
Indiana University

2017. Approx. 1100 pages. ISBN: 978-1-4548-7574-1. 

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With Teacher's Manual.

About the Book

Defining Crimes, by the distinguished author team of William J. Stuntz (late of Harvard) and Joseph L. Hoffmann (Indiana), breaks from the tradition of Model Penal Code-centric casebooks and focuses instead on the rich intellectual and theoretical issues that arise from how crimes actually get defined and applied today by state and federal legislatures, trial and appellate courts, police, prosecutors, defense lawyers, and juries. The innovative approach of Defining Crimes enables the in-depth study of the problems and issues that affect the day-to-day contemporary practice of criminal law.

Hallmark features of Defining Crimes:
  • Distinguished author team
  • Strong emphasis on the traditional approach to mens rea that is still used in the majority of American jurisdictions—including “general intent,” “specific intent,” “malice,” mistake doctrine, and strict liability. The Model Penal Code is also covered, for sake of comparison and because its alternative mens rea approach is used in some jurisdictions.
  • Strong emphasis on the most commonly prosecuted crimes, including Property Crimes, Drug Crimes, Gun Crimes, and Crimes of Sex and Sexual Violence.
  • Sub-chapter on Rape is carefully designed to prompt thoughtful class discussion about acquaintance rape, intoxication, “no means no,” and “yes means yes” laws and policies.
  • Focus on institutional relationships, placing criminal law in the context of the complex interactions between key institutional players—legislatures, courts, police, prosecutors, defense lawyers, and juries—that share responsibility for defining and applying crimes.
  • Introductory sections to explain the fundamentals of criminal law that students need to know in order to understand many of the chapters and sub-chapters
  • Secondary materials provide in-depth social, historical, and/or political context for many of the issues that are covered in the book
  • Contemporary, with most main and note cases decided since 2000, and many after 2005.

Thoroughly updated, the Third Edition presents:
  • New coverage of the controversial issue of police use of deadly force, which—together with the existing section on “stand your ground” laws—facilitates class discussion of the “Black Lives Matter” movement and the shootings of Trayvon Martin, Michael Brown, and Eric Garner, among others.
  • New chapter on Gun Crimes, including the Supreme Court’s 2016 decision upholding the criminalization of gun ownership for those convicted of domestic violence crimes.
  • Updated chapter on Federal Criminal Law, including the Court’s 2016 Elonis decision.
  • Updated coverage of criminal cases involving the over-prescription of opoid painkillers and other kinds of prescription medications.
  • Updated materials on Rape, incorporating coverage of “yes means yes” laws and policies.
  • New and comprehensive student assessment questions, written by the casebook authors, that will be posted to the companion website.

Preface / Sample Chapters