Criminal Defense Clinic

The Roger Williams University Criminal Defense Clinic offers law students an extraordinary opportunity to experience the actual practice of law, representing real defendants in pending criminal cases under the direct supervision of a full time member of the School of Law’s tenured faculty.

Law students personally handle all stages of criminal litigation in the Criminal Defense Clinic, beginning with interviewing the client and including investigating the case, counseling the client, negotiating with the prosecution, and ultimately, if the case proceeds that far, trying the case. Some clinic students will also be assigned to appellate and post-conviction work.

The majority of the Criminal Defense Clinic caseload consists of misdemeanor criminal cases that are pending in the Rhode Island District Court, involving charges such as domestic violence, drunk driving, disorderly conduct, assault, larceny, drug possession, and weapons possession. The clinic also carries a caseload of cases at the Rhode Island Traffic Tribunal, including refusal to submit to a breath test. In any given semester, several Criminal Defense Clinic students will may the experience of handling an actual trial to verdict before a judge.

In addition to the trial level caseload, the clinic handles some appellate and post-conviction matters, exposing the clinic students to litigation experience in the Supreme and Superior Courts of Rhode Island. Over the past few years, Criminal Defense Clinic students have enjoyed several extraordinary experiences through these cases.

One Criminal Defense Clinic student became the first law student in Rhode Island history to try a case before a jury in Superior Court, achieving a full acquittal for his client.  In recent years, Criminal Defense Clinic students have argued cases before the Supreme Court of Rhode Island. 

Close Course Type Descriptions

Course Types

We have classified RWU Law classes under the following headers. One of the following course types will be attached to each course which will allow students to narrow down their search while looking for classes.

Core Course

Students in the first and second year are required to take classes covering the following aspects of the law—contracts, torts, property, criminal law, civil procedure, and constitutional law, evidence, and professional responsibility.  Along with these aspects, the core curriculum will develop legal reasoning skills.


After finishing the core curriculum the remaining coursework toward the degree is completed through upper level elective courses.  Students can choose courses that peak their interests or courses that go along with the track they are following.


Seminars are classes where teachers and small groups of students focus on a specific topic and the students complete a substantial research paper.


Inhouse Clinics and Clinical Externships legal education is law school training in which students participate in client representation under the supervision of a practicing attorney or law professor.  RWU Law's Clinical Programs offer unique and effective learning opportunities and the opportunity for practical experience while still in law school.