For the first time, Beacon College offered a course focused on the law. Michael Lozano, a Learning Specialist who holds a Juris Doctor from Barry University School of Law, designed the Introduction to Criminal Law course to help build a foundation for students interested in the field of legal studies. In this class, students were introduced to a wide range of legal issues, with specific case examples used to illustrate the applicable law.
While the majority of the students who enrolled in this summer course were upperclassmen, it was designed to be appropriate for students in any class year, provided the Composition class had been completed since writing was an important required element. The course acts as an elective and would be most appealing to someone with an interest in the criminal justice system or legal studies but could also be of interest to a student wanting to learn more about the field. In recent years, there have been quite a few students who have expressed just such an interest, making this course an appropriate new offering based on that feedback. Even for those not looking to enter the field, the class provides beneficial information so students can know and understand their legal rights.
Each class session focused on a different fundamental legal issue. Case scenarios were presented in class each day, as a way for students to analyze the situation and decide how/if the applicable law fit with the details of the case. These examples provided a concrete way for students to understand the exact requirement of each law and also led to a good start to class discussions as they pondered the details of the scenario. They had to decide how to apply what they learned to the given situation and had an opportunity to discuss whether they agreed with what the law demands.
In one class session, the focus was on the legal concept of conspiracy. Using the case example of a drive-by shooting of a 15 year-old boy during the commission of a different crime, students debated whether a person could be guilty of planning when the action is impulsive and there is no opportunity to plan ahead. Students learned that the legal definition of conspiracy is that two or more parties must have an agreement to commit a crime. In an example regarding two women deciding over lunch to start selling illegal drugs, it was determined that this fits the legal definition of conspiracy to commit a crime. When it was revealed that one of the women was actually an undercover police officer, the definition no longer applied because it was not a valid arrangement between two people; the policewoman never intended to actually sell drugs.
In this class session and every other during the May term, students not only learned more about the legal system and the laws governing society, they also had ample opportunity to analyze and critically consider the fairness of such rules. The foundation that was created in their understanding of the legal environment will potentially serve them in future studies but also will be beneficial in their everyday lives.