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​Evaluating Crimes

A discussion guide for use with What Is the Purpose of the Judicial Branch (see Source)

​Grade levels: 9–12.

OVERVIEW: This activity is a good introduction on a unit of Criminal Law. Students will learn that a crime is something one does or fails to do in violation of a law; or it can also be behavior for which government sets a penalty. Decisions as to what constitutes a crime are made by legislatures. They try to protect the protect the public based on what most people believe is right and necessary for the orderly conduct of our society.

PURPOSE: The purpose of this activity is to make students aware there is no concrete consensus as to what is a crime, the seriousness of crimes, or variances of actions that change "noncriminal" behavior to "criminal" behavior.

OBJECTIVES: The students will ba able to:

  1. Identify certain "criminal" behavior.
  2. Identify certain "noncriminal" behavior.
  3. Analyze actions as to degree of criminal behavior.
  4. 4.Evaluate and rank certain actions as to "criminal"—"noncriminal" behavior.



  1. After a short introduction that includes a broad definition of "crime", distribute handout sheet.
  2. Have students individually decide if the actions should be treated as a crime and gives reasons why.
  3. Have student rank the offenses from most serious as number 1 to least serious as number 15.
  4. Divide class into 4-5 groups and repeat numbers 2 and 3 as a group.
  5. Have a spokesperson from each group give rankings and reasons why.
  6. Record group rankings on the chalkboard.
  7. Have class as a whole vote on the rankings of the offenses.


RESOURCES/MATERIALS NEEDED: No special resources are needed.

TYING IT ALL TOGETHER: This is a good activity to stimulate discussion on what constitute a crime. Students will generally have strong opinions about "non-victim crimes" and indirect involvement in crime. I have used this for several years in a Business Law class that has a unit on Criminal Law and I have always had success with it. It takes little preparation and the group dynamics can be thrilling.

SOURCE: This lesson plan was found at The Educator's Reference Desk,
Submitted by: Frances Troyer Glenn
School or Affiliation: Riverside High School, Boardman, OR
Endorsed by: These lesson plans are the result of the work of the teachers who have attended the Columbia Education Center's Summer Workshop. CEC is a consortium of teacher from 14 western states dedicated to improving the quality of education in the rural, western, United States, and particularly the quality of math and science Education. CEC uses Big Sky Telegraph as the hub of their telecommunications network that allows the participating teachers to stay in contact with their trainers and peers that they have met at the Workshops.

Date: May 1994

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