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Criminal Law: Secondary Sources

Overview of Secondary Sources

Secondary resources take various forms, they can be jurisdictionally specific or they can provide the reader with a compilation of laws encompassing various jurisdictions. They can provide information about a broad subject or they can restrict discussion to a very narrow topic—meant only for an esoteric audience. The user must decide the purpose for which he or she is consulting the secondary research, along with the level of knowledge he or she possesses regarding the given topic. Below, the user can find the type of resource that best conforms to his or her particular needs.


Secondary Resources - Electronic


Treatises are more detailed, albeit longer than casebooks and hornbooks—usually spanning multiple volumes and divided by topic. Treatises provide a scholarly overview of the law, while also including references to specific, seminal cases. The treatises below are best suited for users well versed in criminal law or, at the very least, with general knowledge of the criminal law. The information contained in these treatises will be useful for those seeking to fine-tune their understanding of specific topics within criminal law—not those looking for a better understanding criminal law. If looking for a better understanding of criminal law, LaFave’s and Wharton’s treatises on criminal law—discussed at the bottom of this page—will be most helpful.   

Restatements and The Model Penal Code

Restatements provide a synthesis of the common law, generally dedicated to subjects such as torts, contracts, agency, etc. Likewise, they tend to be concise—listing the law first, followed by its explication. The restatement listed below can be helpful for any user desiring to learn about the Model Penal Code or seeking clarification regarding one of its provisions.  The Model Penal Code is a statutory text developed by the American Law Institute, with the goal of updating and standardizing the penal law in the United States. Although the MPC is merely a recommendation made on behalf of the American Law Institute, it has proven influential, as nearly all of the states have adopted some of its provisions.


Hornbooks are useful in terms of providing the user with an overview of the given subject. Generally, hornbooks are not jurisdictionally specific, but rather a compilation of the laws across various jurisdictions. In the context of criminal law, hornbooks provide the common law treatment, or the traditional treatment, of criminal offenses as well as corresponding defenses recognized by the courts. The hornbooks below are the best resource for those looking for a concise overview of criminal law with or without prior exposure to the subject.

Other Print Resources


HeinOnline is a useful tool for finding archived material, especially material dating back to the 19th century. HeinOnline is also good for users who are seeking out international resources or law review journals. The law review journals are, however, only available in PDF format, as are all other sources procured through HeinOnline. 


    HeinOnline is accessible via IP recognition while on-campus; When off-campus, users MUST login via Regent's Law Library site.