Criminal Defense Clinic

The consequences of a criminal conviction—even for minor offenses—are severe. Convictions can result in loss of liberty, housing, employment, and educational opportunities; inability to obtain financial assistance; disruption to families and communities; stigma; and much more. These and other consequences of criminal convictions can negatively impact life for years after a conviction is entered in court. As with all other aspects of the criminal legal system, these consequences are often greatly amplified for the poor and for Black people and other people of color. This is particularly true in Baltimore City, where individuals from the poorest communities continue to disproportionately confront the criminal legal system.

All of our clients face not only the “direct” consequences of convictions (or, the punishment imposed by the Court) but also the “indirect” consequences of convictions (such as having a criminal conviction record, the loss of housing and employment, and the countless other effects of a conviction). Student-attorneys in the Criminal Defense Clinic will represent indigent clients who are charged with misdemeanor crimes in Baltimore City District Court.

In this clinic, students will be introduced to the criminal legal system and criminal defense practice. Student-attorneys will zealously represent their clients through every phase of a criminal case, from the early stages of the case; through the discovery, investigation and motions phases; in negotiations with prosecutors; and at trial and sentencing. Student-attorneys will practice “client-centered” defense, tailoring their representation to the goals of each individual client. Student-attorneys will also represent clients at the bail review phase, seeking their clients’ release pretrial. Each student-attorney will have multiple opportunities to appear in court and make substantive legal arguments. Through their representation, student-attorneys will explore the criminal process and criminal practice in depth.

Upon completion of the clinic, student-attorneys can expect to have developed a comprehensive skillset in client-centered defense practice, including:

  • Client interviewing and relationship building
  • Fact investigation
  • Discovery practice
  • Defense theory development
  • Plea negotiations
  • Criminal motions practice
  • Trial advocacy (e.g., opening statements, cross-examination, closing arguments)
  • Sentencing advocacy

The clinic includes a seminar component. Seminar classes will meet twice weekly on Tuesdays from 1:05pm to 3:05pm and on Thursdays from 2:10pm to 3:05pm. The seminar will focus on two areas: exposing students to the historical and current influences on the modern criminal legal system and practical preparation for representing indigent clients charged with crimes. In seminar, students will advance the lawyering skills developed in fieldwork through a series of mock exercises and/or simulations covering client interviewing; investigation; defense theory development; negotiations; motions practice; and basic trial skills.

P: Criminal Procedure, Evidence. Criminal procedure, but not evidence, can be taken as a co-requisite.

Students who enroll in this clinic are required to have taken Criminal Procedure and Evidence as prerequisites by the spring 2021 semester. Criminal procedure, but not evidence, can be taken as a co-requisite in the fall 2022 semester.

Students who enroll in the Criminal Defense Clinic will be required to participate in a pre-semester trial advocacy bootcamp scheduled for Monday through Wednesday (9:30am to 5pm each day) of the week immediately preceding the start of the semester.

Students are also required to meet with Professor Sinha before registering for the clinic.

Key to Codes in Course Descriptions
P: Prerequisite
C: Prerequisite or Concurrent Requirement
R: Recommended Prior or Concurrent Course