Criminal Law

With record numbers of Americans being prosecuted and incarcerated, and increasing calls for major criminal justice reform from policymakers, scholars, journalists, and the public, it’s an important and transformative time to be studying criminal law.

The delicate balance between victims’ rights, public safety, the rights of the accused and incarcerated, as well as humanitarian, fiscal, and practical concerns, has given rise to intense debate on issues such as mandatory minimum sentences and mass incarceration; stop-and-frisk policies, racial profiling, use of force, and other policing issues; forensics, eyewitness identification, interrogations, and confessions; grand juries, discovery, plea bargaining, prosecutorial guidelines, indigent defense, sentencing disparities, bail reform, and wrongful convictions.

Students seeking to pursue criminal law careers – prosecutorial, defense, or judicial – will be held to the highest standards. The Criminal Law program at the Sandra Day O’Connor College of Law at Arizona State University will prepare its students to not only reach, but surpass, those expectations.

Program Overview

The Criminal Law program is led by some of the most distinguished and cited criminal law scholars in the nation, all of whom are dedicated to preparing the students to promote and protect justice. Students gain a deep understanding of the criminal justice system through both highly specific and focused classes. Through participation in clinics and externship opportunities, students put into action the knowledge they gain in the classroom.

By taking advantage of the many criminal law-related opportunities offered, graduates will be prepared to advance the ideals of criminal law – deterrence, retribution, and rehabilitation – as either prosecutors or defense attorneys. The Criminal Law program goes beyond the courtroom, and additionally prepares students for careers in many areas of the federal and state government, such as investigative and law enforcement agencies.

Faculty Expertise

Students interested in the Criminal Law program at ASU Law will be educated by an impressive mix of recognized and respected professors and esteemed practitioners from around the valley, including:

  • Erik Luna, an Amelia D. Lewis Professor of Constitutional & Criminal Law. Professor Luna has experience as a prosecutor in the San Diego DA’s office and has conducted research and served as a visiting professor, all on criminal law-related subjects, in Europe, New Zealand, and Cuba.
  • Michael Saks, a Regents’ Professor of Law and Psychology. Professor Saks has conducted extensive research on the legal system and the use of science as evidence within the court system, which is compiled in the approximate 200 articles and books he has authored.

Student Opportunities

Sample course offerings

  • Arizona Criminal Law
  • Cross-Border Investigations & Prosecutions
  • Victims in Criminal Procedure


  • Prosecution Clinic: Students are involved in all stages of both misdemeanor and felony prosecutions with the Maricopa County and city courts, and every student will have the opportunity to participate in at least one jury trial throughout the semester.
  • Public Defender Clinic: Students are supervised by experienced public defenders from the Maricopa County Superior and Justice Courts in the representation of indigent defendants for charges including drug possession, DUI, and aggravated assault.
  • Post-Conviction Clinic: Funded by a grant from the National Institute of Justice, students in this clinic focus on cases of claimed wrongful conviction in which DNA testing may prove innocence.


  • Federal Public Defender's Office
  • Salt River Pima - Maricopa Indian Community, Office of the Prosecutor
  • Office of the Legal Defender, Major Felony and Death Penalty
  • United States Attorney, District of Arizona, Criminal Division

Program Benefits

Students interested in Criminal Law program have the benefit of structuring their own curriculum and tailoring their course and hands-on experiential learning to meet the perspective and career path that most suits them. ASU Law is centrally located on ASU’s Downtown Phoenix campus in the Beus Center for Law and Society. Students have ample opportunities to learn from judges and practitioners involved in the criminal justice system, through clinics, externships, and observation of proceedings in the many nearby courthouses.

Career Opportunities

ASU Law is uniquely situated in downtown Phoenix, where major city, county, state, and federal jurisdictions intersect. This offers not only an abundance of internship, externship, and clerkship opportunities, but a wealth of professional opportunities in the field of criminal law:


  • Prosecutor’s offices in city, county, federal, and tribal jurisdictions.


  • Public defender’s offices representing indigent defendants in city, county, federal, and tribal jurisdictions.
  • Private practices specializing in criminal defense.


Judges, commissioners, and justices of the peace in various jurisdictions.

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Please contact, 480-965-1474.