The topic that I chose to describe is the criminal justice process. The criminal justice process is described as a process that involves a series of steps beginning with the investigation of the crime and the arrest of the suspect. The next step following the investigation is the pretrial activities, which include the first appearance, a preliminary hearing, information or indictment, and arraignment. Following the pretrial activities, is adjudication, this is where there is a trial by jury. A trial is heard and settled by this judicial procedure. Following adjudication the sentence is given. Lastly, the corrections stage begins.
The first step, investigation and arrest, is very important. Since there is already a crime that has been commented, getting as much evidence at the scene of the crime is critical. At the crime scene is also where the brainstorming begins for the police officers and investigators. An arrest warrant can be granted by a judge and in that warrant it provides, “the legal basis for an apprehension by the police.” (Schmalleger, 2011, p.18) “A warrant is, a writ issued by a judicial officer to perform a specified act and affording the officer protection from damages if he or she performs it.” (Schmalleger, 2011, p.18) Arrest is a serious step in the criminal justice process because no police officer wants to arrest the wrong individual. During the arrest and before the questioning the defendants are advised of their constitutional rights.
These rights are known as Miranda Rights. Miranda Rights are a constitutional requirement, it protects the arrestee, and it also protects law enforcement and the prosecution from throwing out any evidence in the trial. After the arrest, suspects are placed in booking. Booking is described as, “A law enforcement or correctional administrative process officially recording an entry into detention after arrest and identifying the person, the place, the time, the reason for the arrest, and the arresting authority.” In booking suspects are usually advised of their rights once again and are asked to sign a form which acknowledges that the suspect has been advised of his or her rights and understands them.
The second step of the criminal justice process is pretrial activities. This is when the suspect makes his or her first appearance, in front of a judicial officer. The suspect will be aware of his or her charges, give rights again, and possible bail. Bail is, “the money or property pledged to the court or actually deposited with the court to affect the release of a person from legal custody.” (Schmalleger, 2011, p.18) Those who are not released on bail have to stay in jail and await the next stage of the process. If a defendant does not have a lawyer, a lawyer will be appointed to him or her, but the defendant has to show financial hardship. After the suspect has been either released on bond or not the defendant has to face a preliminary hearing. During this hearing, there has to be appropriate evidence to continue the criminal justice process. Probable cause comes into effect when, “(1) a crime is committed, and (2) the defendant committed it.” (Schmalleger, 2011, p.19)
The preliminary hearing is extremely important for the defense because it, “serves as a discovery function.” (Schmalleger, 2011, p.19) Depending upon the outcome of the preliminary hearing the prosecutor may seek to continue a case against the defendant by filing, “a formal written accusation submitted to a court by a prosecutor, alleging that a specified person committed a specified offense” (Schmalleger, 2011, p.19) Other states require an indictment , which is returned by a grand jury before prosecution can go forward. Information and indictment differ because the formal, written accusation is submitted to the court by a grand jury, in an indictment. The arraignment is, “the first appearance of the defendant before the court that has the authority to conduct a trial.” (Schmalleger, 2011, p.19) During the defendants arraignment they are again explained their rights and are asked to enter a plea. Usually a plea is guilty, not guilt, or no contest. If a judge feels if the defendant does not understand why he or she is being accused, made under coercion, or do not say anything then the judge will grant the defendant a not guilty plea. Each criminal defendant has a right to a trial by jury under the U.S. Constitution’s 6th Amendment.
Amongst most jurisdictions numerous criminal cases never come to trial. If the offense is less serious offense then the defendant can go before a judge, this is called a bench trial. If a jury cannot decide the facts of the case and the law the judge is said to be deadlocked. The judge rules it being a mistrial and the defendant may be tried again with a new jury. After the person has been convicted then it is up to a judge to make a ruling on his or her sentencing. Sentencing, which is the 4th step, can be a combination of the following punishments, supervised probation in the community, a fine, or a prison term. To help the judge make an appropriate judgment he or she will request the probation or parole officer, assigned to the defendant, to put together a presentence report. A presentence report can consist of the following: “information on the defendant’s family and business situation, emotional state, social background, and criminal history.” (Schmalleger, 2011, p.21)
Once an offender is found guilty of more than one charge he or she may be ordered to serve one sentence once another is completed, this is called consecutive sentence. If the judge orders concurrent sentencing, all of the time of the sentence will be all ran at the same time. If an appeal is requested after the sentencing has been ordered the process is very complex. After the sentencing has been ordered to the offender the correctional stage begins. Not all offenders end up in prison. Some may be ordered to community service as time on probation. If an offender fails to appear a visit with the probation officer or meet the requirements set by the judge, then probation can be revoked and the remainder of the time will be served in prison.
Only when a criminal has been through the criminal justice process and served out their punishment, the system’s process is complete and justice has been served. This also gives the ex- offender a second chance.
Schmalleger, F. 2011. Criminal justice today: An introductory text for the 21st century. Eleventh Edition, pp. 18,19, and 21
Criminal Justice Process
The criminal justice process is a complex one. it begins with the commission of a crime or the belief that a crime has been committed. This leads to an investigation by local police, the FBI, Homeland Security or other law enforcement organizations. The investigation consists of obtaining reasonable facts that a crime has been committed or is in the process of being committed. If this is established, an arrest can be made. The accused offender can only be held for 24-48 hours without being charged with a crime. If not, he/she must be released.
If the investigation deems that a crime has been committed, a local district attorney will be assigned to prosecute the case. The person charged with a crime has the right to an attorney even if the funds are not available to pay the attorney. This attorney is assigned by the courts.
Unless a full confession is made, the case is referred to a Grand Jury. There it is decided if there is enough evidence to proceed with a trial. This is based on probable cause. Are there enough facts in evidence to warrant a trial? If not, the accused is released. If so, there is an arraignment by a judge. The defendant usually pleads guilty or not guilty although other pleas are sometimes used such as no contest. This means the defendant is neither admitting or denying the charges. The next step is setting bail, which is determined by the judge. Sometimes, if the defendant is gainfully employed and has roots in the community, a defendant is released on his/her own recognizance. If defendants do not have the bail money, they must remain in jail.
After this, plea bargains begin between the district attorney and the defense attorney to see if they can come up with a lighter sentence or other agreement in exchange for the defendant pleading guilty to the crime. If a plea bargain is not reached, the case goes to trial where the judge or jury decide the fate of the defendant. Trials can last one day or many weeks depending on the evidence presented and the complexity of the case.
The defendant must be found guilty beyond a reasonable doubt. This means that a jury may truly believe the defendant is innocent or that he/she is guilty but that there are not sufficient facts presented to support this conclusion. The defendant, if found innocent, is free to go. The record is expunged. If found guilty, the defendant must be given a sentence by the judge or jury. Sentencing may be many years, life in prison or even the death penalty. It could also be something like counseling or rehabilitation in an outpatient center.
Lastly, there is the appeals process. The sentencing itself can be appealed as too harsh or innocence can be maintained. New facts can now be presented that were not raised during trial. This process can go all the way to the Supreme Court that has the final say on the disposition of the case. After this, there are no appeals.
As you can see, this is a long and complicated process. This is not the speedy trial and process guaranteed by our Constitution. Perhaps you can find ways in your lifetime to change this system.