330.01 Federal Criminal Law

This course examines the role of the federal government in the criminal justice system, focusing on significant federal offenses criminalizing fraud, public corruption, drugs, money laundering, racketeering, firearms, and terrorism. We will also consider prosecutorial discretion, plea bargaining, and sentencing in the federal system. The objective of this course is to master doctrine and to learn how to debate federal criminal law's merits and proper limits. Public policy, theory, critical thinking, writing, and oral advocacy will be emphasized.

Federal criminal law is recommended either for second- or third-year students. It is especially helpful for students who will have a federal judicial clerkship, and those who anticipate a career in litigation. There are no prerequisites.

Each student will participate in two mock appellate cases, once as a judge and once as an advocate. The course grade will be based on class participation, the mock cases, and a take-home examination, allocated as follows:

Points/Approximate percentage of final grade

  • 25 argument #1 28%
  • 25 argument #2 28%
  • 30 take-home exam 33.3%
  • 10 class participation 11%

The maximum for each argument is 25 points, allocated as follows:


  • 15 points: written summary of argument
  • 10 points: for the oral presentation (substance and style)


  • 5 points: written questions
  • 10 points: written preliminary disposition
  • 5 points: writing (questions and summary disposition)
  • 5 points: oral questions & final explanation of the decision at the close of the arguments

Spring 2021

Course Number Course Credits Evaluation Method Instructor
Course Credits
Take-home examination
Oral presentation
Practical exercises
In-class exercise
Class participation
Sara Sun Beale
Sakai site: https://sakai.duke.edu/portal/site/LAW.330.01.Sp21
Email list: LAW.330.01.Sp21@sakai.duke.edu
Degree Requirements
Course Requirements - JD
Course Requirements - LLM
Course Requirements - Public Interest
Course Areas of Practice