Criminal Law & Procedure

Key Concepts to Know and How To Study for the MBE®

Criminal Law typically covers the rights and obligations of individuals in society. Questions about this topic usually focus on the elements of specific crimes and the defenses against them. Criminal Procedure, on the other hand, typically covers the protection of a person's rights during the criminal process. MBE questions on this topic usually focus on police investigations, arrests, the filing of charges, the filing of motions, criminal trials, and the appeals process.

Of the 175 scored questions on the Multistate Bar Exam (MBE®), you can expect to see 25 on the topic of Criminal Law & Procedure. In most cases, those 25 questions are split approximately 50-50 between Criminal Law and Criminal Procedure. These two subjects are very similar, but test-takers should be aware of a couple of distinct differences.

If you want to pass the MBE, you will need a detailed understanding of these subjects.

Criminal Law & Procedure Breakdown by Topic, Weightage and Tested Questions

The Criminal Law and Procedure bar exam is separated into five categories. They are:

  • Homicide
  • Other crimes
  • Inchoate crimes; parties
  • General principles
  • Constitutional protection of accused persons

The National Conference of Bar Examiners (NCBE®) weighs each of these topics differently. The current weights are as follows:

Criminal Law & Procedure Subtopics % Tested No. of Questions
Homicide 12.5% 3-4
Other crimes 12.5% 3-4
Inchoate crimes; parties 12.5% 3-4
General principles 12.5% 3-4
Constitutional protection of accused persons 50.0% 12-13
Total scored questions for Criminal Law & Procedure 25

As you prepare for the MBE Criminal Law and Procedure test, keep these topic weightings in mind and focus your studies accordingly. But what exactly do you need to know about each of these MBE subjects? Let’s find out!


The Criminal Law and Procedure bar exam generally contains 3 – 4 homicide questions. To answer these questions correctly, you will need to know about:

  • Intended killings
  • Premeditation, deliberation
  • Provocation
  • Unintended killings
  • Intent to injure
  • Reckless and negligent killings
  • Felony murder
  • Misdemeanor manslaughter

The MBE usually poses homicide questions in the form of sample cases. You will need to review the details of the case and state which level of homicide the defendant has committed. We suggest paying close attention to the defendant’s mental state if you want to ace this section of the exam.

Other crimes

Homicide isn’t the only offense covered on the MBE. Test takers can also expect to face Criminal Law bar exam questions about offenses such as:

  • Theft and receiving stolen goods
  • Robbery
  • Burglary
  • Assault and battery
  • Rape; statutory rape
  • Kidnapping
  • Arson
  • Possession offenses

As with the homicide portion of the exam, questions about these other crimes are usually posed in the form of sample cases. To answer them correctly, focus on the elements of the crime. If an element is missing, the defendant cannot be convicted of the offense.

Inchoate crimes; parties

Inchoate crimes are incomplete offenses. The MBE Criminal Law and Procedure bar exam asks three or four questions about these offenses. It is recommended studying the following topics if you want to ace this portion of the test:

  • Types of inchoate offenses
  • Attempts
  • Conspiracy
  • Solicitation
  • Parties to crime

When preparing to answer questions about inchoate offenses, remember the merger doctrine. It may have an impact on the crimes the defendant can be convicted of.

General principles

You should expect to find three or four questions on the general principles of criminal law on the MBE. To answer them correctly, you’ll need a detailed understanding of topics like:

  • Acts and omissions
  • State of mind
  • Required mental state
  • Strict liability
  • Mistake of fact or law
  • Responsibility
  • Mental disorder
  • Intoxication
  • Causation
  • Justification and excuse
  • Jurisdiction

Focus on the differences between concepts such as intent and recklessness if you want to earn top marks on this section of the MBE.

Constitutional protection of accused persons

50% of the questions on the Criminal Law and Procedure test are about the constitutional protection of accused persons. As such, this topic should garner the bulk of your attention when preparing for the exam.

It’s especially important to study topics such as:

  • Arrest, search and seizure
  • Confessions and privilege against self-incrimination
  • Lineups and other forms of identification
  • Right to counsel
  • Fair trial and guilty pleas
  • Double jeopardy
  • Cruel and unusual punishment
  • Burdens of proof and persuasion
  • Appeal and error

Many of the questions in this part of the exam concern the application of the Fourth, Fifth, Sixth, and Fourteenth Amendments. Review them carefully before you walk into your exam center.

Master legal rules easier with effective answer explanations and visuals.
Illustration of the separation of church and state.
Illustration of a private nuisance.
Illustration of transferred intent for battery.

How to Study for Criminal Law and Procedure on the MBE

To study for the NCBE’s Criminal Law and Procedure bar exam, just follow these steps:

  1. Create a Plan: Check the bar exam dates to see how much time you have to prepare. Then, create a plan that outlines the topics you want to study each day.
  2. Hit the Books: There is no way around it. If you want to pass the MBE, you’ll need to open your textbooks and put in some late nights. Don’t forget to focus the bulk of your attention on the most-tested topics.
  3. Take Practice Exams: The best way to assess your study progress is to take regular practice tests. If your scores improve each time, you’re heading in the right direction!

Want more info about the best way to study for the MBE Criminal Law and Procedure test? Let’s dig in!

Know About Highly Tested Issues

During the first two steps of the study process, it’s crucial to understand which MBE subjects are the most likely to appear on the exam. This knowledge will help you create your plan and focus your studies.

In recent years, the most highly-tested issues have been:

  • The Insanity Defense: The NCBE loves to ask questions about the M’Naghten Rule.
  • Homicide: Expect several criminal law bar exam questions about the different types of homicides an individual may commit.
  • The Fourth Amendment: Questions about privacy, probable cause, and the validity of warrants are common on the MBE.
  • The Fifth Amendment: You should never walk into a Criminal Law and Procedure test without a thorough understanding of Miranda warnings and violations.

It is also a good idea to brush up on our Criminal Law and Procedure vocabulary before the test. Doing so will help you avoid any unnecessary confusion in the examination center.


Reviewing sample exams and answering criminal law practice questions is undoubtedly the best way to assess your study progress.

We recommend approaching each question using the following steps:

  • Analyze the Crime: What offense (if any) was committed in the sample case?
  • Review the Suspects: Which individuals broke the law? Did all the defendants commit the same crimes?
  • Consider the Exceptions: Do any exceptions or protections exist that would prevent the state from prosecuting the suspects?

Approaching your criminal law MBE practice questions in this manner will show you what to look for in the real exam, making it possible for you to find the right answers quickly and consistently.

Criminal Law and Procedure Law Sample Questions and Answers

Wondering what criminal law MBE questions look like? Here are three samples from our UWorld MBE QBank:

A man and a woman dated for several weeks. During that time, the man repeatedly asked the woman to have sex. Each time, the woman responded that she would not have sex with the man unless they were married. One evening, the man promised the woman that they would elope the following weekend if she would agree to have sex. The woman agreed and the couple had sex. The following weekend, the man told the woman that he had no intention of eloping and only made that promise to get the woman's consent. The woman reported the man to the police, who later arrested and charged the man with rape.

Is the man guilty of rape?

  1. No, because fraud in factum did not negate the woman's consent.
  2. No, because fraud in the inducement did not negate the woman's consent.
  3. Yes, because the woman's consent was obtained by fraud in factum.
  4. Yes, because the woman's consent was obtained by fraud in the inducement.

A man purchased a new rifle and wanted to try it out before bringing it on a hunting trip the following day. After leaving the gun store, the man drove to a remote part of town and stopped at a building that, by all outward appearances, had been abandoned. The man fired upon the building, using the building's boarded-up windows as targets. Unbeknownst to the man, a small group of people had taken shelter inside the building. The man ceased firing once he heard voices yelling from inside the building. However, one of the man's bullets struck and killed a woman inside the building.

The above facts were set out at trial, and the man was convicted of murder. On appeal, the man argues that the evidence was insufficient to support his conviction.

If the jurisdiction follows the common law of homicide, should the man's conviction be overturned?

  1. No, because the killing occurred during the commission of an inherently dangerous felony.
  2. No, because the man acted with negligent disregard of an obviously high risk of death by shooting at the building.
  3. Yes, because the man did not intend to kill the woman when he fired at the building.
  4. Yes, because the man was unaware of the danger posed by firing at the seemingly abandoned building.

A man was at work when he received a call from his wife. She told the man that their neighbor had severely beaten their son for merely walking across the neighbor's lawn. Incensed, the man rushed home from work only to find the neighbor being led away in handcuffs by the police. Ten days later, the man was shopping at a local grocery store when he spotted the neighbor, who had been released on bail. As they crossed paths, the neighbor looked directly at the man and said, "Hitting your boy sure was fun." The man became enraged, immediately drew a knife, and stabbed the neighbor repeatedly, killing him.

The man was charged with murder. At trial, the man has requested that the court instruct the jury on voluntary manslaughter.

Should the court grant the man's request?

  1. No, because a reasonable person in the man's position would have cooled after 10 days.
  2. No, because words alone do not constitute adequate provocation.
  3. Yes, because the man had not actually cooled off in the days between the son's beating and the neighbor's death.
  4. Yes, because the neighbor's taunt provoked the man again.
Try UWorld’s visual active-learning approach.
Illustration of a scale showing when to exclude relevant evidence
Illustration of criminal battery against another person.
Illustration of common law burglary.

Frequently Asked Questions

Have questions about the MBE Criminal Law and Procedure exam? We’ve got the answers:

Of the 175 scored questions on the MBE, 25 are about Criminal Law and Procedure.

The Criminal Law and Procedure bar exam is broken down into five topics. They are:

  1. Homicide
  2. Other crimes
  3. Inchoate crimes, parties
  4. General principles
  5. Constitutional protection of accused persons
  6. You will be asked about each of these topics on the exam.

The Criminal Law and Procedure questions on the MBE are multiple-choice. To answer them, all you need to do is review the facts and select the most suitable answer from the four options.

Yes. Criminal Law and Procedure questions regularly appear on the MEE.

To analyze a question on a criminal law test, follow these three steps:

  1. Check what crime was committed.
  2. Figure out who committed that crime.
  3. Consider whether an exception may prevent the state from prosecuting the suspect.

This three-step procedure will help you find the right answer to criminal law MBE questions with speed and consistency.

The most-tested topics on the MBE Criminal Law and Procedure test include:

  • Homicide
  • The Insanity Defense
  • The Fourth Amendment, and
  • The Fifth Amendment

When preparing for the MBE, these topics should garner a great deal of your attention.

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Common law Modern approach
Murder Unlawful killing committed with malice aforethought:
  • Intent to kill
  • Intent to cause serious bodily harm
  • Depraved-heart murder
  • Felony murder
First-degree: murder committed with:
  • premeditation & deliberation
  • heinous acts (eg, bombing, torture)
  • enumerated felony murder
Second-degree: any murder that is not first-degree murder
Voluntary manslaughter Intentional killing mitigated by either:
  • adequate provocation (ie, heat of passion)
  • other mitigating factors (eg, imperfect self-defense)
Involuntary manslaughter Unintentional killing either:
  • caused by criminal negligence (or recklessness under MPC)
  • occurs during commission of criminal act (eg, misdemeanor manslaughter)
MPC = Model Penal Code.
Unlawful acts
(for involuntary manslaughter)
  • Felony that does not statutorily qualify as first-degree felony murder or second-degree murder
  • Malum in se (inherently wrong) misdemeanor (ie, misdemeanor-manslaughter rule)
  • Malum prohibitum (wrong by law) misdemeanor only if act was willful or constituted criminal negligence
Inherently dangerous felonies
  • Burglary
  • Arson
  • Rape
  • Robbery
  • Kidnapping
Mnemonic: BARRK
Common law
  • Murder*
  • Manslaughter*
  • Mayhem
  • Sodomy
Mnemonic: MMMs
* Not a basis for felony murder