Career Pathways: Criminal Law

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Criminal and Criminal Defense Law involves the prosecution and defense of criminal defendants.  Federal, state, and local law define certain acts as criminal, define some more minor acts as civil infractions, and prescribe punishments or other penalties.  Both federal and state constitutions and other laws prescribe rights and obligations that criminal defendants may be entitled to as their cases move through the criminal justice system.  Criminal law attorneys may work for the government, as prosecutors or public defenders, or as private criminal defense attorneys.  They represent either the government or the accused throughout the many stages of the criminal process.  Some of those stages include: a grand jury investigation, the defendant’s arrest, the defendant’s first appearance in court, requesting and setting bail, the filing of an indictment or information, the discovery process, plea or other resolution negotiations between the state and the defendant, scheduling and planning a trial, jury selection, the trial process, presentencing matters, sentencing, other post-conviction matters, and appealing a verdict.

Criminal cases involve less discovery than civil cases. However, criminal law attorneys must be very familiar with the rules of criminal discovery and evidence.  Criminal cases are often won or lost based on issues with defendants’ rights or evidentiary issues. Criminal law attorneys frequently negotiate with one another, informally or formally.  They draft warrants and bring them before judges. They research and draft motions and memoranda of law, although they spend less time doing so than civil litigation attorneys. Criminal attorneys spend a considerable amount of time in court, especially government criminal law attorneys who are often assigned to the cases in a single courtroom.

For additional information on Criminal and Criminal Defense Law, see the Legal Information Institute’s Wex encyclopedia “Criminal Law” page, the American Bar Association’s Criminal Justice Section, and the Criminal Law Section of the Florida Bar.

Job Types Typical Duties
Federal Agencies
  • Prosecute or defend criminal cases at all stages.

  • Try criminal cases.

  • Handle criminal appeals.

State Agencies
  • Prosecute or defend criminal cases at all stages.

  • Try criminal cases.

  • Handle criminal appeals.

Local Government
  • City Attorney's Office
  • County Attorney's Office
  • City Police
  • Prosecute or defend criminal cases at all stages.

  • Try criminal cases.

  • Handle criminal appeals.

Private Law Firms
  • Defend criminal cases at all stages.

  • Try criminal cases.

  • Handle criminal appeals.

Other Activities

  •  Intern with the Office of the Attorney General, a state attorney’s, prosecutor's, or public defender’s office.

  • Intern with a criminal defense firm.

  • Participate in a judicial internship with a judge in the criminal division.

  • Periodically check Symplicity Job Board for jobs and internships in this field of practice

  • Do pro bono work with organizations listed in the Pro Bono Honor Program Handbook.

  • Become a CLI - Certified Legal Intern (see checklist at: Florida Bar CLI Checklist)

  • Participate in Criminal Justice Field Placement Clinic, working for the Public Defender's Office or the State Attorney's Office as a Certified Legal Intern (CLI).

Criminal Law and Procedure Curriculum Guide


Faculty Members Include: Catherine Arcabascio, Tim Arcaro, Heather Baxter, Randolph Braccialarghe, Megan Chaney, Leslie Cooney, Mark Dobson, Doug Donoho, Pearl Goldman, Shahabudeen Khan


Core Offerings

Advanced Offerings

Related Offerings

Criminal Law  (4 credits) LAW 0670 (MBE) (FB)

Advanced Criminal Law: Federal Crimes (2 Credits) LAW 0776

Domestic Violence Law and Policy (2 Credits) LAW 0694

Criminal Procedure (3 Credits) LAW 0645

(MBE) (FB)

Advanced Trial Advocacy (3 Credits) LAW 0893

Interviewing and Counseling (2 Credits) LAW 1062

Evidence (4 Credits) LAW 0614 (MBE) (FB)

Criminal Justice Field Placement Clinic (12 FT Credits) LAW 0852/0853

Interviewing, Counseling, and Negotiating (3 Credits) LAW 0665


Criminal Pre-Trial Practice (2 Credits) LAW 0711


Judicial Field Placement Class/ Judicial Field Placement (1 credit) LAW 0821/ (2 credits) LAW 0822


Juvenile Law (3 Credits) LAW 0506 (FB)

Negotiation Workshop (2 credits) LAW 0672 /LAW 4672


Post-Conviction Relief Workshop (2 Credits) LAW 1001



Sentencing Workshop (2 Credits) LAW 1076



Trial Advocacy (3 Credits) LAW 0890