Define the Criminal Justice System

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    What is a Criminal Justice System?

    • According to jrank, a criminal justice system is a collection of laws and institutions designed to enforce criminal law according to a defined set of rules and procedures. In the U.S., a crime is a violation of a criminal code, and may be local, state or federal.


    • In the U.S., each criminal justice system has a set of courts where crimes are tried. The accused has a right to an attorney and the burden of proof is on the government, which must prove, beyond a reasonable doubt, that the accused committed the crime. Trials may be before a jury or a judge.

    The Police and Arrest

    • Before the accused goes to trial, he must be arrested, usually by the police. The accused is afforded certain rights, including the right to remain silent and the right to not be coerced into a confession.

    The Prison System and Penalties for Crimes

    • If the accused is found guilty, he may be sentenced to incarceration in the prison system according to sentencing guidelines that exist in all jurisdictions. Some crimes are punished with fines in addition to or instead of incarceration. Except in cases where the death penalty may be imposed, sentencing is usually the duty of the judge, and not the jury.

    Appellate Courts

    • If found guilty, the accused may appeal to a higher court. Each state--as well as the federal government--has a system of appellate courts. The highest court is the U.S. Supreme Court. However, if the accused is acquitted, the government may not appeal.

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