Criminal Law (2018/2019)

Course code
Name of lecturers
Lorenzo Picotti, Ivan Salvadori
Lorenzo Picotti
Number of ECTS credits allocated
Academic sector
Language of instruction
1° periodo di lezioni dal Oct 1, 2018 al Dec 14, 2018.

Lesson timetable

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Learning outcomes

The course aims at offering to students the basic notions of the “general part” of the Italian criminal law.

From a methodological point of view, an approach based on a constitutional-oriented interpretation of the criminal law will be adopted throughout the course. As a consequence, the analysis of the Italian criminal law will be carried out on the basis of the democratic principles and values of the rule of law established in the Constitution, which recognizes the supranational sources of law and aims at promoting the progress and the peace among nations. The Constitution also rejects the autarchic and authoritarian conception of the Fascist regime, to which the Italian current penal code is dated back.

In so doing, considerable attention will be paid to the case-law developed by the national Courts (in particular the Constitutional Court and the Court of Cassation) as well as the European Courts (ECHR and CJEU). The national and supranational jurisprudence represents the “living law” also in the criminal justice system. It expresses the tension between the demand to its adaptation to the evolution of the contemporary society and the requirement to safeguard the fundamental guarantees of all persons as well as the general principles of criminal law (i.e. legality, culpability, proportionality, harm principle, etc.), which have to limit the ambit of criminal responsibility when faced with the need of a social defence.

At the end of the course, students will be able to:
• acquire a basic knowledge of the constitutional and supranational principles and the fundamental rights concerning the current criminal justice system
• understand, memorize and critically evaluate the conceptual categories and principles of Italian criminal law as well as their origin, historical evolution, reasons and implications
• assess and critically comment upon the concept and main elements of criminal offence (“actus reus”, “mens rea” and defences) as well as its forms of manifestation (attempt and complicity)
• understand and critically evaluate the functions and the regulation of the criminal penalties (primary and accessory penalties; security measures) and the causes of extinction of the crime
• demonstrate an appropriate level of research skills in locating, evaluating and interpreting academic opinions and the case-law.
• solve problems and individual cases using the knowledge gained from the course
• acquire the skills to use library, legal databases and online resources independently


The course will be divided into the following parts:

1st Part: The historical and constitutional evolution of the Italian criminal law
• The limits of the punitive power of the State
• The Beccaria’s On Crime and Punishments and the origins of the European legal Enlightenment
• The differences between the “Classical School” (represented by Francesco Carrara) and the “Positivist School” (represented by Cesare Lombroso, Raffaele Garofalo and Enrico Ferri, among others)
• Comparison between the basic characteristics of the 1889 Italian Penal Code (so-called “Zanardelli Code”) and the 1930 Italian Penal Code (so-called “Rocco Code”)
• The criminal law reform projects and the influence of the Constitution of 1947 as well as the Constitutional Court case-law on the criminal justice system

2nd Part: The criminal legislation in a multilevel legal system

• Sources of criminal law
• Criminal jurisdiction and the ambit of criminal law
• The fundamental principle of legality (non-retroactivity principle, lex certa and lex scripta principles)
• The influence of the International and European Law on the Italian criminal law

3rd Part: Structure of criminal offence

3.1. Objective elements of the criminal offence (“Actus reus”)
• The concept and function of the legal good (“bene giuridico”; “Rechtsgut”)
• The legal good as criterion of legitimacy and limitation of the criminal law
• The notion of “actus reus” (“fatto tipico”; “Tatbestand”)
• The act requirement (active or omissive conduct)
• The wrongful result and the rules of causation

3.2. The unlawfulness of the act (“cause di giustificazione”; Rechtswidrigkeit”)
• Justification and excuse
• The rationale which justifies the self-defence and its recent reform
3.3. Subjective elements of the criminal offence (“mens rea”)
• The culpability principle (“principio di colpevolezza”; “Schuldprinzip”)
• The concept of intention (“dolo”)
• Negligence (“colpa”, “Fahrlässigkeit”)
• Preterintention and strict liability
• Ignorance and mistake of law

4th Part: The different forms and manifestations of the criminal offence
• The attempt
• Complicity and joint criminal enterprise
• Circumstances of the criminal offence
• Concurrence of offences

5th Part: The consequences of the criminal offence
• The “binary system” of criminal penalties and security measures
• The function and the general purposes of the criminal penalty
• The mechanism of deterrence and rehabilitation
• The accessory penalties and the causes of extinction of the crime


Language of teaching for this course is Italian. All literature and auxiliary materials are also in Italian.

For students attending classes, the course will be mainly based on lectures and slides concerning the basis and fundamental categories of the Italian Criminal Law. Workshops or seminars about specific topics or case studies could be organized during the course. The online registration to the University e-learning platform will provide students with a source of reference, bibliography, scientific papers and selected case-law.

The professors will provide support to students non-attending classes during the office hours (see the Law Department webpage). They may also register to the University e-learning platform and have access to a source of reference, bibliography, scientific papers and selected case-law.

Reference books
Author Title Publisher Year ISBN Note
PALAZZO Francesco Corso di diritto penale (Edizione 6) Giappichelli 2016
MATERIALE DIDATTICO Il materiale giurisprudenziale verrà fornito ed aggiornato nelle lezioni ed esercitazioni  

Assessment methods and criteria

The final exam consists of an oral examination. The are no mid-term exams.

The final exam aims at verifying:

• the level of achievement of the learning outcomes previously identified
• the linguistic accuracy
• the argumentative, reasoning and problem-solving skills
• the ability to connect systematically the knowledge achieved

Students attending classes have the possibility to write a short paper on specific topics of the program, upon agreement with the professors. The paper will be discussed during the oral examination and will constitute part of the program.

Students not-attending classes and ERASMUS students are kindly requested to contact the Professors at the beginning of the course, in order to agree on the exam’s program and the parts of reference books to study.

Grades are awarded on a scale from 18 to 30, where 30 is the highest grade and 18 is the lowest grade to pass the exam. In case of an excellent knowledge, a high level of linguistic accuracy and an argumentative, reasoning and problem-solving capacity the candidate may earn the highest grade with “cum laude” honor.

Teaching aids