Lesson: introduction to law

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NAME: Dan Carew & Ryan Ward


SOURCE: Original (“No Vehicles” examples courtesy of Prof. Kaltsounis)

TIME: 90 Minutes

  1. GOALS:

    1. Introduce students to the ways in which laws are created.

    2. Familiarize students with new type of group work.

    3. Build off of last week’s enthusiasm.


    1. Knowledge Objectives-As a result of this class, students will be better able to:

      1. Define case law and statutory law.

      2. Understand how case law is created and how it develops over time.

      3. Explore some of the difficulties associated with drafting statutes.

    2. Skills Objectives: As a result of this class, students will be better able to:

      1. Work effectively in groups.

      2. Explain the reasoning behind their decisions.

    3. Attitude Objectives

      1. Students will maintain their level of enthusiasm from last week.


Daily Handout

Powerpoint Presentation


  1. Do Now:

    1. Write down two laws that you think are good laws. After you think of two good laws, try to think of any laws that you might disagree with, or that you think are bad.

      1. Discuss:

        1. What makes a law good or bad?

          1. Is it the source of the law (as in the values we discussed last week)?;

          2. Is it the purpose of the law?;

          3. Is it the clarity of the law?; etc.

        2. Where do you think these laws come from?

          1. Who are they created by?

          2. Are they written down? Where?

  2. Methods by which laws are created

    1. Laws are primarily created through two different methods: case law and statutory law

      1. Define statutory law:

        1. Written laws that are created and passed by a legislature on the state or federal level.

          1. EX: In Washington we have the RCW’s, and national government has the U.S.C.

      2. Define case law:

        1. Law that is based on judicial decision and precedent.

          1. Courts decide the law applicable to a case by interpreting statutes and applying precedents which record how and why prior cases have been decided.

    2. Example of the development of case law using the 4th Amendment’s warrant requirement as an example. (Emphasize that this is a very simplified version of the 4th Amendment and that we will be talking about it in more detail later in the quarter.)

      1. Show students the text of the Fourth Amendment:

        1. The right of the people to be secure in their persons, houses, papers, and effects, against unreasonable searches and seizures, shall not be violated, and no Warrants shall issue, but upon probable cause, supported by Oath or affirmation, and particularly describing the place to be searched, and the persons or things to be seized.

          1. Basic idea that we’ll be working with today is simply that it is unreasonable for the government to search a place or seize a person or things without a warrant.

            1. Acknowledge again that this is a massive simplification, but emphasize that it will help us with the concept.

      2. Introduce series of cases that show the Court’s development of a few of the exceptions to the warrant requirement: consent, plain view, immediately after an arrest, or under exigent circumstances.

        1. Watson was suspected of having stolen credit cards. The police searched him and found no cards. They then asked him if they could search his car. He said “Go ahead,” and the officer’s found two stolen credit cards under the floor mat. He was convicted and sent to jail.

          1. This demonstrates the consent exception to the warrant requirement.

        2. An armed robber entered the offices of a taxi company, stole $363, and ran. Tow taxi drivers who heard shouts of “holdup,” followed the robber to 2111 Cocoa Lane. Police proceeded to the house and were let in by a woman. Officers spread out through the house and found Hayden upstairs pretending to sleep. He was arrested and convicted.

          1. This demonstrates the exigent circumstances exception to the warrant requirement.

        3. During the middle of the night a gas station was robbed at gunpoint. Witnesses saw a blue station wagon leaving the gas station with four men inside, one in a green sweater and one in a trench coat. Police found the station wagon about an hour later and observed two men matching the description inside. Chambers was arrested and the car was searched. Under the dashboard police found two guns and cards that belonged to the gas station attendant.

          1. Demonstrates the automobile exception.

        4. Horton was suspected of robbing a coin collector. Police got a warrant to search his house for three rings that were stolen. Police did not find the rings during the search, but they did find guns that matched the description of those used in the robbery lying on a bed in one of the rooms.

          1. Demonstrates plain view doctrine.

      3. So if our original definition was that it is unreasonable for the government to search a place or seize a person or things without a warrant, does that definition still work?

        1. No. So what would it look like now? More like: it is unreasonable for the government to search a place or seize a person or things without a warrant unless the suspect’s consent to a search, there are exigent circumstances, the suspect is in an automobile, or police find the items in plain view while legally searching for other evidence.

        2. Is this written down anywhere? So how do we know? Have to look at cases and follow the development of the law.

  3. Group Activity: No vehicles in the park

    1. Introduce the activity by showing the students and reading together both the history of the law and the text of the law itself.

      1. The town of Beautifica has a lovely park in its center. The city council wishes to preserve the feeling of nature, undisturbed by city noise, traffic, pollution and crowding. It is a place where people can go to find grass, trees, flowers and quiet. In addition, there are playgrounds and picnic areas. In order to make sure the park stays as it is, the city council passed a law, called an ordinance. At all entrances to the park, the following sign is posted: "NO VEHICLES IN THE PARK."

        1. The law seems clear, but some disputes have arisen over the interpretation of the law.

    2. Clarify with students that they understand what the law actually is?

      1. What is the text of the law?

      2. What are the purposes?

      3. What words might be tricky or what might you want to know more about?

    3. Break students into group of 3-4 and have them debate and discuss each of the different laws. Advise them that they are going to be the judges in this case, and that they will be asked at the end to explain why they came to the conclusions that they did. Have students fill in the chart as they work through the activity.

      1. State v. Smith: John Smith – a government lawyer – lives on one side of town and works on the other side. To avoid being late for an important meeting, he drives his Honda Accord through the park on a paved street. A police officer arrests him and he is tried and convicted for violating the city’s law.

      2. State v. Stodd: Stevie Stodd, a 3-year old child, “drives” a non-motorized toy car that his father gave him into the park. A police officer arrests young Stevie. He is tried and convicted for violating the city’s law.

      3. State v. Edwards: A bee stings Sally, a little girl who is playing in the park. She has a life-threatening allergic reaction. Her father uses his cell-phone to call an ambulance. The ambulance arrives and very carefully enters the park to save sally. A police officer arrests the ambulance driver, Mary Edwards. She is tried and convicted for violating the city’s law.

      4. State v. Budd: Julie Budd rides her bicycle through the park on her way to a girl-scout charity event. A police officer arrests Budd. She is tried and convicted for violating the city’s law.

      5. State v. Karlberg: Kevin Karlberg, a commercial airline pilot, flies a Delta Airlines “Whisper Jet” over the park at approximately 1000 feet on his approach for landing. A police officer arrests him. He is tried and convicted of violating the city’s law.

      6. State v. Wadsworth: A monument to the town’s citizens who died in an overseas war is being built. A full-size military tank, donated by the government is placed in the park as part of the monument. A group of anti-war activists gives a police officer a tip about this activity, On the day the tank is installed, the police officer arrests the project manager, Walter Wadsworth, who ordered the tank to be installed. He is tried and convicted for violating the city’s law.

    4. Have groups share their responses and keep track of which way they vote on the board.

    5. Have students work to come up with ways that they might improve the law based on the way in which the class voted.

      1. How might the statute be improved?

        1. Clear definition of what a “vehicle” is?

        2. Clear definition of what it means to be “in the park”?

        3. Emergency vehicle/personnel exception.

      2. Create a new powerpoint slide to record the improved statute.

      3. Apply the new statute to a final case: State v. Charles

        1. Andy Charles, a 4-year old boy, is playing the park with his remote control speed racecar. The car goes 40 kilometers per hour and makes a loud buzzing sound. A dutiful police officer arrests him.


    1. Student performance during the partner class discussion and during the group work activity.

Name: _________________________________ Date:________________________

Do Now: Answer the following question on your own.
Write down two laws that you think are good laws. After you think of two good laws, try to think of a law that you might disagree with, or that you think is bad.

Definitions: The Creation of Laws
Statutory law:

Case law:

Mini-Activity: We’re going to work as a class to trace the development of case law as it relates to the Fourth Amendment.
Basic idea behind the 4th Amendment:

Case # 1: Watson’s Car
Exception recognized:

Case # 2: Cocoa Lane
Exception recognized:

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