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New York Criminal Law: Cases and Materials

Why a casebook on New York criminal law? Because American criminal law should be recognized, and taught, as the codified, jurisdiction-based subject that it has become.

In 1952, the American Law Institute started its work on the Model Penal Code, which was completed ten years later. Since then American criminal law has undergone dramatic changes, notably a period of widespread codification that has led to a splintering of the ‘‘common law’’ of crimes into the criminal law of fifty states (and federal law, plus the District of Columbia) based on the criminal code of each jurisdiction.

In a post-MPC world, it is no longer possible to teach criminal law as a common law subject. First, it no longer makes sense to speak of American criminal law as a single body of law, or—for that matter—as a subcategory of some larger body of ‘‘Anglo-American’’ common law with origins in, and increasingly tenuous connections to, English criminal jurisprudence. American criminal law today is jurisdictionspecific.

Second, American criminal law today is code-based. American courts have long surrendered their common law power to define crimes; even in the few jurisdictions that did not revise their criminal codes in the wake of the Model Penal Code, legislatures hold the monopoly in criminal lawmaking. American criminal law today is largely an exercise in statutory interpretation, rather than in common law judging.

This book is primarily intended for use as the main coursebook in lecture classes and seminars on New York criminal law. It can also be assigned as a primary text in general courses on American criminal law. Last but not least, scholars, students, and practitioners may find it to be of some use as a convenient collection of leading court opinions on the major issues in New York criminal law.


From the Preface