Introduction to the U.S. Criminal Justice System


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Introduction to the U.S. Criminal Justice System

  1. 1. Crime and Justice in the US
  2. 2. Crime in the United States• Crime is a top concern of the American public.• Crimes presented by the media are usually more sensational than the crimes routinely committed.
  3. 3. Crime in the United StatesMost police calls involve responding tocomplaints of disturbances:• Domestic quarrels• Neighbor squabbles• Gang altercations• Loud music
  4. 4. Criminal Justice: An Institution of Social ControlThere are a variety of responses to crime inthe United States, from punishment toprevention.
  5. 5. Criminal Justice: An Institution of Social ControlCriminal justice is an institution of socialcontrol, as are: – The family – Schools – Organized religion – The media – The law
  6. 6. institution of social controlAn organization that persuades people, throughsubtle and not-so-subtle means, to abide by the dominant values of society.
  7. 7. Criminal Justice: An Institution of Social ControlCriminal justice differs because: – It is concerned only with behavior that is actually criminal. – It is society’s “last line of defense.”
  8. 8. Criminal Justice: The SystemCriminal justice in the United States isadministered by a loose confederation of morethan 50,000 agencies of federal, state, andlocal governments. • The police The criminal • The courts = justice system • Correction s
  9. 9. Criminal Justice: The SystemThe criminal justice system operatesdifferently in some jurisdictions, but thereare also similarities. jurisdictions A politically defined geographical area.
  10. 10. PoliceThe criminal justice response to crime beginswhen a crime is reported to the police, orwhen the police discover a crime has beencommitted.
  11. 11. Arrest WarrantOn rare occasions, police may obtain anarrest warrant from a lower-court judgebefore making an arrest. arrest warrantA written order directing law enforcementofficers to arrest a person.
  12. 12. Courts• After a suspect has been arrested and booked, a prosecutor reviews the facts of the case and decides whether to charge the suspect with a crime.• If no charges are filed, the suspect must be released.
  13. 13. Pretrial StagesAbout 90 percent of criminal defendants pleadguilty to the charges against them, in anarrangement called plea bargaining.
  14. 14. plea bargainingThe practice whereby a specific sentence isimposed if the accused pleads guilty to anagreed-upon charge or charges instead of goingto trial.
  15. 15. Trial10 percent of criminal cases go to trial.5 percent of criminal cases are decided in a bench trial. bench trial A trial before a judge, without a jury.
  16. 16. Trial• If the defendant is • The judge (and found guilty as sometimes the jury) charged begins to consider a sentence.If the defendant is found The defendant is released.not guilty
  17. 17. CorrectionsCurrently, five types of punishment are usedin the United States: –Fines –Probation –Intermediate punishments –Imprisonment –DeathJudges must impose sentences according tostatutory guidelines.
  18. 18. Corrections Defendants can appeal their convictions either on legal or constitutional grounds.Legal Grounds Constitutional Grounds• Defects in jury selection • Illegal search and seizure• Improper admission of • Improper questioning by evidence at trial police• Mistaken interpretations • Incompetent assistance of law from counsel
  19. 19. Criminal Justice: The Nonsystem The “criminal justice system” in the United States is really a “nonsystem.” Each agency works independently, and often in conflict with others. systemA smoothly operating set of arrangements andinstitutions directed toward the achievement ofcommon goals.
  20. 20. Criminal Justice: The Nonsystem• Judges impose prison sentences when thereisn’t room in prisons to hold the offenders.• In every state, there is a separate process forjuvenile offenders.• Police often say sentencing does not matchthe crime.
  21. 21. Criminal Justice: The Nonsystem• Prosecutors complain about shoddy policework.• Police complain that offenders are notprosecuted.
  22. 22. Costs of Criminal Justice• Each year in the United States an enormous amount of money is spent on criminal justice.• In 1999, local, state, and federal governments spent a total of $146 billion on civil and criminal justice.
  23. 23. Costs of Criminal JusticeState and local governments pay most of the cost ofcriminal justice. Generally speaking:Local governments pay for police.The federal government works strategically toinfluence criminal justice policies at otherlevels of government.
  24. 24. Costs of Criminal Justice• About 4 cents out of • Roughly two-thirds of every tax dollar is the American public spent on crime control. thinks the government should spend more.
  25. 25. Myths About Crime and Criminal JusticeMuch of the American public’s understandingof crime and criminal justice is wrong; it isbased on myths. myths Beliefs based on emotion rather than analysis.