Criminal law is one of the most exciting, rewarding, and demanding areas of legal practice. It is also one in which many Cincinnati Law alumni have excelled. Because of the importance of criminal litigation, criminal lawyers spend more of their time in the courtroom and more time litigating constitutional issues than lawyers in any other field of practice.
Prosecutors are responsible for enforcing criminal laws to promote public safety and seek justice. Criminal defense lawyers are responsible for enforcing procedural and constitutional laws to protect the life, liberty, and property of people who are accused of crimes.
Cincinnati Law offers more criminal law courses than most students will have time to take. All students are required to take Criminal Law in their first year. Students interested in criminal law are strongly encouraged to take Evidence and Criminal Procedure I & II during their second year. There are a number of other course electives available to second and third year students. All courses may not be offered every year, so students should plan accordingly.
Students also may choose to register for a limited number of courses in the University of Cincinnati’s Criminal Justice Program and count the credits toward their JD degree requirements. Established in 1970, UC’s School of Criminal Justice is ranked among the top programs in the country.
Cincinnati Law also offers students many opportunities to build skills and gain experience in the criminal justice and litigation process. Judicial externships with the U.S. District Court, the Ohio Court of Common Pleas, or other courts with criminal jurisdiction are valuable. Students also can participate in the Indigent Defense Clinic and the Domestic Violence and Protection Order Clinic. Legal externships with a prosecutor or defense organization are also available.
Fellows in the Ohio Innocence Project (OIP) investigate the cases of Ohio inmates who have been convicted of serious crimes and who have steadfastly maintained their innocence. OIP Fellows basically operate as a small criminal defense and private investigation firm, and offers and exceptional hands-on opportunity for students to develop invaluable knowledge and skills.
Fellows in the Glenn M. Weaver Institute of Law and Psychiatry obtain critically important knowledge and skills regarding forensic mental health, which is a major issue in contemporary criminal legal systems. Weaver Fellows develop skills necessary to handle psychiatric issues that affect criminal adjundication, civil cases, correctional decision-making, and legislation.
Selected Course Electives
- Advanced Problems in Constitutional Law: Contemporary Constitutional Challenges
- Appellate Practice and Procedure
- Civil Rights Litigation
- Computer Crime Law
- Counterterrorism Law
- Criminal Defense: Investigation and Discovery
- Criminal Procedure I
- Criminal Procedure II
- Federal Courts
- Introduction to Law and Psychiatry
- Trial Practice
- White Collar Crime
Third-year students who have completed at least 60 credit hours toward graduation can obtain an intern’s license, allowing them to practice in court under the supervision of a prosecutor or defense lawyer. Students also can work part-time in their second and third years with many of the 800 law firms located in the Cincinnati area.
Volunteer opportunities also are available at organizations such as the Ohio Justice and Policy Center. Any student who performs 15 or more hours of volunteer legal work receives an official transcript notation.
Prosecutors work in many different offices with authority to conduct criminal prosecutions. Most prosecutors work for local, county, and state governments. Crime is primarily local, and, therefore, depending on jurisdictional requirements, prosecutors in these offices do the vast majority of prosecutions. A substantial number of prosecutors also work for the U.S. Department of Justice either in Washington D.C. or in one of the U.S. Attorney’s Offices, which are located in each state. Federal prosecutors prosecute federal crimes such as narcotics, white collar fraud schemes, organized crime, and crimes related to violent gangs. There are also a few state and federal offices with specialized prosecutorial jurisdiction over, for example, tax or environmental offenses.
Many defense attorneys are employed by Public Defender Offices and represent persons charged with crimes who cannot afford their own counsel. Accordingly, they tend to represent people charged with “street crimes,” such as robbery, assault, theft, and narcotics offenses. Federal judicial districts also have Federal Public Defender offices, which represent people charged with federal crimes who cannot afford to pay for counsel. Many defense lawyers are in private practice either in a solo practice, small firms, or departments of large firms. Some private criminal defense lawyers specialize in certain areas of criminal law such as a member of a large, primarily civil, law firm who handles securities, white collar, and financial crimes.
Our graduates find success prosecuting and defending individuals at the local, state, and federal levels. They work at organizations such as:
- Innocence Project of Florida (Tallahassee, FL)
- Porter Wright Morris & Arthur (Cincinnati, OH)
- Sutherland Asbill & Brennan LLP (Washington DC)
- United States Attorney's Office (Philadelphia, PA and Boston MA)
- Hamilton County Prosecutor's Office (Cincinnati, OH)
- Hamilton County Public Defender Office (Cincinnati, OH)
- Marion County Public Defender Office (Indianapolis, IN)
- Chicago Public Defender's Office (Chicago, IL)
- Office of the Colorado Public Defender (Denver, CO)
- Federal Public Defender’s Office