The ability of a country to uphold social control, prevent, and extenuate crime depends on the organization of its criminal justice system. For a criminal justice system to achieve its mandate, it must have specific components, which must coordinate to achieve the overall role of reducing crime.
Further, for a criminal justice system to be democratic and fair in achieve justice for all, its members must follow certain processes in executing their duties. The United States criminal justice system primarily applies a “systems” approach in executing its duties, by using constitutional rules, state, federal, and departmental principles of criminal procedure, the Code of ethics, and bill of rights.
To ensure that the system performs its functions to desired standards, the government controls the criminal justice through three main structures namely the executive, legislative, and judicial. The primary function of the legislature is to define practices considered as crimes, fix sentences for such crimes, and provide monetary assistance to the system. The Judiciary through judges, attorneys, and juries help to make judgments using specific defined rules and principles.
On the other hand, the executive branch is mandated with the role of furnishing the criminal justice system with judges and heads of law-enforcing agencies. Therefore, a criminal justice system is a combination of federal state, and local and public bodies that are interdependent and work together for a common goal (Miller & Gaines, 2008, pp. 3-24).
Components of the Criminal Justice System
Generally, a crime is any act that violates a set of fundamental laws, which govern public practices within a society; whereas, law is system of principles that helps to govern practices in a society. Therefore, laws are there primarily to prevent crime, through ensuring that individual’s practices and actions are within certain fundamental rules. Violation of any set rules is prosecutable and punishable in a court of law, as this is the only way of protecting people’s fundamental rights.
To achieve justice for all; prevent and control the rate of crime, the criminal justice system uses three major components, which the government has mandated with different roles, although they are very interdependent. The first component is police departments. The primary roles of this component include ensuring societies maintain law and order, implementing provisions in criminal law, and providing other security needs to the general public.
For police officers to achieve this role, they closely coordinate with community members and security organizations to apprehend criminals. To ensure that suspected criminals and sufferers of crimes get justice, police officers work closely with prosecutors in investigating crimes and gathering enough evidence, for prosecution purposes.
Evidence gathered from investigations acts as the primary basis of operation of the second component of the criminal justice system. The second component’s (courts) main mandate is to ascertain the criminal responsibility of suspects. Through the use of the juries, judges, prosecutors, and defense lawyer’s expertise and presentations, courts will either acquit or convict individuals of specific criminal charges.
Depending on a court’s verdict, the third component (Corrections) comes into action, if one is found guilty. The most common forms of corrections include parole, house arrests, approves, probation, and a specific jail term that matches with one’s crime. The primary role of corrections is to ensure that a criminal justice system rehabilitates criminals, through punishing them (Hewitt & Regoli, 2009, pp. 13-27).
Criminal Justice Process
To ensure that different components of the criminal justice system perform their duties to the desired standards and to avoid chances of laws enforcing agents violating the fundamental rights of those they are serving, the criminal justice process must go through a series of steps.
The first step in the process is investigation. Investigation involves the process of collecting evidence, identifying the suspect, and conducting searchers using the set procedures and rules. If there is evidence of the crime linking the suspect, the second step that involves arresting the criminal comes into action. Arrests are followed by prosecutions in a district court in the presence of attorneys and a prosecutor.
Depending on the facts of a prosecution procedure, in cases of capital offenses, an indictment by a grand jury is a necessity in ascertaining the amount of evidence to warrant a trial. If there is enough evidence, the sitting judge will arraign the suspect in a court of law fro pretrial. Before commencement of the trial proceedings, a defendant has a right of entering a plea, which is usually followed by plea bargaining, where the accused can accept to plead guilty for consideration of a less heavy punishment.
After plea bargaining, the case goes to trial in the presence of a judge or jury, prosecutor, and defense attorneys. Using the prosecutor’s evidence, the attorney’s defense during post trial; the courts can acquit defendants of all the charges or convict them of criminal offenses, which can be in form of jail terms, fines, probation periods, and community service.
If a defendant is not satisfied with the court rulings, they can file appeals in appellate courts. Depending on the court of appeal’s decision (which can be reversing the case or affirming to the lower court’s decision), the case is closed or returned for retrial. If the case goes back for retrial, the lower courts can re-file or drop the case.
In cases where the courts drop the case, the defendant can go free, but if re-filed, depending on the outcomes of the retrial the courts can acquit or convict defendants of the prescribed criminal offenses (National Centre for Victims of Crime, (n.d), pp. 2-4).
Hewitt, J. D., & Regoli, M. R. (2009). Exploring criminal justice system. Massachusetts Jones & Bartlett Publishers. Web.
Miller, L. R., Gaines, L. K. (2008). Criminal justice in action: the core. Florence, Kentucky: Wadsworth Publishing. Web.
National Centre for Victims of Crime. (N.D). The Criminal Justice System. Web.