Criminal law

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If you are interested in criminal law, Akron Law can prepare you for a career through our course offerings, skills training, and hands-on experience. Many of our expert professors have actual work experience in the field of criminal law. Not only is criminal law one of our areas of strength, but we constantly seek ways to promote justice, protect individual liberties, and enhance the rule of law. In fact, through our renowned and highly ranked Re-entry Clinic you can start getting involved in criminal law service during your first week of law school.

The strength of our program is reflected, as well, in the numbers of our graduates who practice in the field. Many of our graduates work as prosecutors, criminal defense attorneys, public defenders, and judges (more than 200 judges in fact!). We also have alumni working in the areas of juvenile justice and criminal justice policy. 

Distinguish yourself at Akron Law by taking advantage of our criminal law program and related trial advocacy offerings. Our advocacy and trial programs are unparalleled. In fact, our elite trial team program has scored multiple national championships over the past decade. You can join our trial team or moot court programs to develop skills applicable to a criminal law practice. Volunteer opportunities abound. We also have a certificate in litigation designed to boost your profile.

Students can also intensively try mock criminal cases as part of our Summer Trial Academy with the guidance and assistance of prominent attorneys, judges, and professors. As a student attorney, you have the opportunity to learn the techniques associated with juror selection, open and closing statements, direct and cross-examination, and the other techniques employed by criminal attorneys.

Criminal law experts

Martin H. Belsky, Dean Emeritus| Bio began his career in 1969 as a prosecutor, and then chief prosecutor in Philadelphia. Professor Belsky has served as board member and committee chair of many government advisory councils and civic and charitable organizations, including bar associations in Philadelphia, New York and Oklahoma; New York Judicial Commission (referee); Oklahoma Humanities Council; the American Law Institute; and the Child Abuse Network. He has also chaired and served on many commissions, including ones on criminal justice.

Dana K. Cole, Associate Professor of Law | Bio teaches Criminal Law, Evidence, and Trial Advocacy. He serves on the board of directors and is also a faculty member at Gerry Spence's Trial Lawyer's College in Jackson, Wyo. Additionally, Professor Cole serves on the faculty of the Ohio CLE Institute, and is a Teaching Team Member for Harvard Law School's Winter Trial Advocacy Workshop. He is an active member of the Association of Trial Lawyers of America and the National Association of Criminal Defense Lawyers.

Michael Gentithes, Associate Dean of Academic Affairs, Associate Professor | Bio
Before joining academia, Dean Gentithes practiced as an assistant appellate defender in the Office of the State Appellate Defender in Chicago, where he represented indigent clients in criminal appeals in both state and federal court. Dean Gentithes's teaching and research focuses on criminal procedure and constitutional law. He is also a frequent speaker in the community on topics in criminal and constitutional law as well as appellate practice.

Joann Sahl, Clinical Professor and C. Blake McDowell, Jr. Professor of Law | Bio is the assistant director of the legal clinic. She supervises the Litigation Clinic and the Reentry Clinics. She is also the Pro Bono Coordinator at The University of Akron School of Law. Professor Sahl also serves as the site supervisor for the statewide Law and Leadership Institute. Prior to joining Akron Law, she served as a staff attorney in the housing unit of Community Legal Aid Services, Inc. in Akron, Ohio from 1999-2008. In that role she represented clients in expungement cases. Before that, Professor Sahl served as assistant state public defender at the Ohio Public Defender Commission, eventually rising to chief appellate counsel and supervisor of the Death Penalty section where she successfully argued before the USSCT in Ohio v. Huertas, 498 US 336 (1991).

Criminal law courses

At Akron Law, we will expose you to a host of general courses relevant to a criminal law practice, as well as various specialty courses and clinical opportunities. These include:

Clinics / Externship

  • Criminal Law Expungement Clinic (Trains law students on expunge­ment law and processes so that they may assist citizens of Ohio who wish to have their records sealed.)
  • Public Externship (Places Akron Law students with local prosecutors, public defenders, legal aid organizations and with super­vising attorneys in other nonprofit or government agencies or organizations.)
  • Judicial Externship  (Students perform research for judges and assist with the work of the court.)
  • Reentry Clinic (Law students assist low-income clients to help file applications to expunge (seal) their criminal records, obtain Certificates of Qualification for Employment (CQE), and file clemency applications.)


  • Appellate Advocacy
  • Criminal Law
  • Criminal Procedure
  • Expert Evidence
  • Evidence
  • Federal Jurisdiction and Procedure
  • Juvenile Law
  • Trial Advocacy I
  • Trial Advocacy II
  • Independent Study (criminal law topic)