Students interested in pursuing careers in criminal law have opportunities to study and develop experience in all aspects of the criminal legal system at Iowa Law. Coursework in this area explores the rules of criminal procedure; the application of the criminal law to specific conduct; the rules and practices governing courtroom advocacy at both the trial and appellate level; the customs and norms related to client counseling in the criminal sphere; and the policy behind our current criminal system and its practices. Students graduate with the knowledge and experience to pursue impactful careers in criminal prosecution, defense, or policy work. 

Faculty scholars in this area research topics in criminal appellate practice, the litigation and adjudication of death penalty cases, compassionate release and motion practice in federal courts, corporate crimes, white-collar criminal conduct, war crimes, and crimes against humanity. This research appears in books and leading scholarly journals and involves faculty in ongoing state and national policy conversations about pressing topics in criminal law. 

Iowa Law offers students a unique and exciting opportunity to participate directly in criminal litigation through its Federal Criminal Defense Clinic. Only the second of its kind in the nation, Iowa’s Federal Criminal Defense Clinic involves student representation of indigent individuals accused of federal crimes in the U.S. District Courts for the Northern and Southern Districts of Iowa and the U.S. Courts of Appeals for the Eighth and Sixth Circuit. Each semester students in the clinic make appearances before both federal district and appellate courts and litigate at every stage of a criminal case, from initial appearance through post-conviction. 

Curriculum Guide

The criminal justice area of study builds upon the required first-year course in criminal law. Criminal Procedure: Adjudication is one of the foundational courses in this area of study. It focuses on aspects of criminal adjudication including the indictment and the charging process, right to counsel, bail and preventative detention, the discovery process, the process of plea negotiation, jury selection, sentencing, and other aspects of criminal litigation. Criminal Procedure: Investigation is another foundational course. It focuses on constitutional protections relating to police and prosecutorial conduct in a criminal investigation, including protection against unreasonable search and seizure, the guarantee against extraction of involuntary confessions, and the privilege against self-incrimination. Evidence is another foundational course, covering the rules that govern the presentation and admissibility of evidence at trial. 

Advanced coursework in the criminal area of study includes a topics course of criminal law practice, coursework on comparative criminal law, and special applications of criminal law, such as the law of corporate crimes and immigration law. Applied Evidence offers a skills-focused approach to the rules of evidence. Trial Advocacy affords students opportunities to refine their skills in the preparation and trial of both criminal and civil cases. Students are on their feet most class sessions, practicing the arts of jury selection, opening and closing statements, direct and cross examination, introduction of exhibits, and the use of expert testimony. The course culminates in a full-scale trial. Appellate advocacy also offers students appellate practice in this field.  

Parallel to Iowa Law’s course offerings in criminal law and procedure are the Iowa Legal Clinic and Field Placement Program, which provide intensive and hands-on experiential training in criminal law and related practice areas. Students working in the clinic and at field placements may counsel clients, participate in pretrial work, and appear before state and federal courts. These opportunities equip students with advocacy and counseling skills that will serve them throughout their careers. 

Courses & Programs

  • Criminal Procedure: Adjudication 
  • Criminal Procedure: Investigation 
  • Evidence

  • Client Counseling 
  • Corporate Crimes 
  • Immigration Law and Policy 
  • Federal Criminal Practice 
  • Juries and Jury Selection 
  • Client-Centered Public Defense 
  • Litigation for Decarceration  
  • Federal Sentencing Advocacy 
  • Trial Advocacy 
  • Advanced Trial Advocacy 
  • Terrorism, ISIS, and International Criminal Law 
  • Wrongful Convictions and the American Crim. Justice System 
  • Law of War, Peace, and Military Affairs 

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