Police Discretion in Criminal Law

Police Discretion in Criminal Law

Criminology is defined as the scientific study of crime as a social phenomenon` which is, the actions, policies, and functions of the agencies within the criminal justice system charged with addressing this behavior. Criminal justice is arguably one of the most essential partsof society in the world today. Law enforcers play the most basic task in this wide, which in overall means keeping law and order. There are several theoretical infrastructures available that try to explain the concept of criminal justice in an attempt to make people understand the necessity of the complex process involved in serving justice to the society

There is an assumption that most theories about criminology are more interested in explaining the reasons for crime and not how to fight it. These theories have however played a huge part in helping us understand the models and complexity of criminal justice. One of such theories is the Labeling Theory which focuses on perceptions of criminal behavior rather than the behavior itself. Cultural Deviance Theory is based on assumption that members of certain subcultures adapt to the values of the subculture they belong to. Choice Theory simply states that the weight of choice about whether to commit a crime lies on the individual.

Apart from these theories, other models help explain the discipline of criminology. They include the criminal justice model that places primary emphasis on the right of society to be protected from crime and violent criminals. Other models of criminal justice include the Conflict Model which states that the content of criminal law is determined by the groups that hold economic, political and social power in a community. Social Disorganization Theory that believes social institutions such as schools and families are most likely to inspire either good or bad characters according to the way they exercise control over the population.

 

The criminal justice process

is described to resemble a funnel, wide at the top and narrow at the bottom. In the early stages of the process, there are many cases, which decreases as decision makers remove cases from the process. Some cases are dismissed, while others are referred for treatment or counseling.  This process is effective in the number of cases to a small percentage of cases that have to be resolved by trial advocacy and incarceration. The process limits the number of offenders in court and incarcerated at any given time. There is however a common misconception of the funnel process is that it lets criminals off.This argument is nevertheless disqualified since most cases are often dismissed, or pleas are bargained due to lack of evidence.

The first step of the criminal justice process is the investigation of a crime which begins when police become aware of suspected criminal activity. After a crime is  suspected, police might need to gather more information by conducting interviews with witnesses, collecting physical evidence, and taking photographs and videos to aid their investigation. The police can arrest a suspect for a crime if there’s probable cause or there’s a warrant for the person’s arrest. The formal criminal justice process then begins with the filing of a criminal charge through a piece of information or grand jury indictment. At this stage, a prosecutor explains the law to the jury, presents evidence, and the grand jury votes on whether there’s enough evidence to indict the person suspected of committing the crime. Arraignment is the first court appearance. Here the judge normally advises the defendant of the charges, the maximum and minimum penalties, and certain constitutional rights that all criminal defendants are afforded. Defendants who are released must agree to abide by certain release conditions.

The next step in this process is the Preliminary Hearing where a judge determines whether enough evidence to support the charges against the defendant. The judge can either decide to proceed the case to trial or dismisses the charges. The  next stage is plea hearing is the next court appearance in jurisdictions that don’t require a defendant to enter a plea at the arraignment.Many cases are  resolved through plea bargaining, and criminal defendants have a constitutional right to a jury trial. A jury trial begins by selecting six to 12 jurors from a pool of potential jurors. These jurors will then decide the case. In cases where the jury finds the defendant guilty, or the defendant pleads guilty or no contest, the next court appearance is the sentencing hearing. The judge then decides the sentence within the allowable range under the law.

The phrase criminal justice system is a collection of federal, state, and local public agencies that deal with the crime problem. The basic framework of the system is made up of the legislative, judicial, and executive branches of government. The legislature defines crimes, fixes sentences, and provide funding for criminal justice agencies. The judiciary Trial courts make judgments on and pronounce the guilt of persons charged with crimes, and appellate courts interpret the law according to constitutional principles. The executive branch gives power to the president, governors, and mayors. On criminal justice matters, they have the ability to appoint judges and heads of agencies, such as police chiefs and directors of departments of corrections. Besides, elected officials can lead efforts to improve criminal justice by putting forth legislative agendas and mobilizing public opinion.

The criminal justice system has however not gone short of its share of controversies in the society today. Some of the most severe issues that the system has faced include the criminalization vs. legalization of drug use. Some people argue that the best way to reduce drug use is by criminalizing it further. Most of these drugs had always been illegal in the United States. However, the recent past events have displayed a change in the fight against drug abuse, with drugs such as marijuana being legalized in the United States among other countries. This has left many wondering whether the justice system has softened up to the issue of drug abuse.There are growing concerns about a large number of inmates in the correctional institutions, as a result of the criminal justice system which has been accused of too many incineration. Another issue facing the system is the dissatisfaction among people about the arrest rates of minorities, especially young African-Americans, Most which are for relatively minor infractions as seen by recent cases. The Death Penalty is another issue that has faced a lot of criticism and opposition including in the United States which is one of the few countries that still execute prisoners. Most people argue that it is not effective in the fight against crime.

As much as most of these issues are based on actual events, it is without a doubt that the current criminal justice system has seen much success in controlling crime. The system has reduced the number of crime rates in some states which is a great achievement, given the growing complexity of crimes such as cybercrime. It is therefore fair to state that the system has not failed yet in delivering justice and maintaining order, which is its essential tasks.

 

References

Helfgott, J. B. (2008). Criminal behavior: Theories, typologies and criminal justice. Sage.

Blumstein, A., & Larson, R. (1969). Models of a total criminal justice system. Operations Research, 17(2), 199-232.

King, M. (1981). The framework of criminal justice (p. 127). London: Croom Helm.

Mather, L. M. (1979). Plea Bargaining or Trial?: The Process of Criminal-case Disposition. Lexington, MA: Lexington Books.

Shapland, J., Willmore, J., & Duff, P. (1985). Victims in the criminal justice system (p. 1). Aldershot: Gower.

Newman, D. J., & Anderson, P. R. (1989). Introduction to criminal justice (p. 458). New York: Random House.

Zehr, H., & Toews, B. (2004). Critical issues in restorative justice. Monsey, NY: Criminal justice press.

Cole, G. F. (Ed.). (1976). Criminal justice: Law and politics. North Sciturate, Mass: Duxbury Press.

Jon’a F. Meyer & Diana R.Grant (2003) The Courts in Our CriminalJustice System, Pearson Education, Inc

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