Criminal justice process is an important judicial process that involves arrest, trial and sentencing of criminal offenders in the society. In the event a criminal offence is of high magnitude and seriously affecting the lives of the community, it amounts to felony. Normally, the judicial process begins with arrest of a person suspected of committing felony following investigations; then criminal charges are filed against the offender. This is followed by pretrial process and finally the full trial process. In some cases, the judge may allow appeal within a reasonable time if the suspect is found guilty of the offence. This paper will discuss the full judicial process for a felony charge brought to the state court and then give recommendations of any amendments necessary to make the process more effective.
Criminal justice is a system and process of law enforcement that involves the police, lawyers, courts and correctional institutions such as the judiciary where criminal conduct is investigated, arrests are made, evidence gathered, trials are conducted and sentences are made to ensure that social control is upheld to prevent and mitigate crime (Thigpen, 2012). Generally, criminal justice usually involves sanctioning of those criminals who violate the laws and regulations in the society and may result in criminal penalty and rehabilitation process to ensure that justice is provided to the offended person or individual (Panchyk, 2006). This paper will discuss the criminal justice procedure for a felony charge filed in a court.
Criminal Justice System
Criminal justice system is the process that includes three main divisions including the legislative, the courts, and the corrections division. The legislative is a branch of the criminal justice, which mainly involves creation of laws (Dos Santos & Kassouf, 2013). The courts part is responsible for the adjudications and mostly involves the judges and lawyers. Lastly, the corrections division mainly consists of the prisons, jails, and even the probation. These three divisions of the criminal justice system usually work together under the law in order to help in maintenance of the rule of law in the society.
The main goal of criminal justice in the society is to fight and prevent crimes through law enforcement using the courts and other correctional agencies in order to protect individuals in the society. Therefore, the criminal justice system is mainly responsible for enforcing good standards of conduct in the society by bringing justice through fair and law-abiding means. This usually helps in delivery of fair, balanced, and equitable justice to all in the process of protecting individuals’ rights in the society.
Felony Criminal Charge
A felony criminal charge is a very serious crime that normally attracts capital punishment or life imprisonment. Some of the felony criminal charges include murder, rape, and even manslaughter. Therefore, a criminal justice process for a felony criminal charge in a state court will involve a lot of seriousness in order to restore justice to the offended in the society. In most cases, the convicted felons may face very serious consequences that may include prohibition by law from obtaining certain licenses and even restriction from serving as jury among many other consequences.
This paper will discuss the process that a felony criminal charge filed in a state court will undergo in order to ensure that justice is done (Thigpen, 2012). This process includes arrest, pre-trial, trial, and lastly appeals.
This is the first process that always occurs in case a crime is committed. However, in the event that the defendant wants to involve the police in the process of bringing back justice to him or her, the police have to perform thorough investigations before the arrest is made. This always starts with the law enforcement officials, especially the police starting the investigation process after they have received information about an occurrence of criminal activity. Evidences are then obtained to ensure that the police adhere to the rule of the criminal procedure as provided in the law. All evidences must and should always be lawfully obtained; indeed, this collection of evidences does not end as the case continues (Carr, 2012a).
After collection of enough evidences and the police are clearly convinced that the suspect has committed a crime, legal authorities may proceed to arrest the suspect and take him or her into custody. In cases of probable cause of felony, the legal authorities can use force to arrest the suspect. In most cases, the court’s involvement in a case usually starts after the arrest when the defendant is already in the custody; indeed, the police must always ensure that the criminal is brought before the court immediately or within an appropriate time, usually within 24 hours after arrest. For example, the criminal who is arrested in the evening may be required to appear before the court in the morning the next day (Carr, 2012a). However, if the arrest was made on a Friday evening, it will force the defendant to wait until Monday to appear before the court, since the court does not work during weekends.
In cases of felony criminals, formal charges hearings are just the initial appearance of the defendant in the court of law. In addition, in felony criminal offences, the police are usually required to include other law enforcement agencies in the process of arresting the suspect, including the use of force in the arrest process in order to restore social order immediately to the public. Again, it is always important that in the process of arresting the suspect, the police and other law enforcement agencies should adhere to the law in order to maintain peace and order in line with their mission and jurisdiction.
During preliminary and initial hearings, a bail maybe allowed and the defendant can get an opportunity to appoint a legal counsel to defend him or her (Carr, 2012a). In addition, the preliminary hearing can be used in the process of determining if the evidences presented as the reason for arrest are enough to bind the case to other judges (Carr, 2012a). The process then goes to the grand jury where evidences are investigated and if the defendant is indicted, formal charges may be read to give room for him or her to defend if guilty or not guilty.
Here, many hearings and conferences take place in order to prepare for the trial. In these conferences and hearings, the judge and the attorneys usually discuss the main themes and subject of the final trial. Here, the duration that the trial will take may be discussed. Again, the sequestering of the jury that involves things like whether the jury should be excluded from family influences and the type of technology to use may be determined (Carr, 2012b). Therefore, the pretrial stage mainly involves various important issues and matters that the judge must decide before the final trial begins. It may also include issues like motions that suppress the hearings such as change of venue of hearings and whether the defendant will have a plea bargain or not.
The plea bargaining involves negotiation that may occur between the prosecutor and the defense. For example, there might be an agreement between the prosecutor and the defense when a defendant accepts that he or she is guilty and accepts to allow dismissal of some charges. In some cases, the felony criminal may also enter an agreement with the police during investigations in order to be allowed reduction in some charges that he or she might face in the court of law during the trial process. In such instances where there is a proper and considerate plea agreement between the prosecutor and the process defense, the trail process may not be allowed to continue taking place.
This is where the final decision concerning the criminal charge is given and the disputes are settled as justice is administered to both the parties involved. In this stage, there are various people involved, ranging from the judge, the prosecutor, and the defense attorney. Here, the judge will help in giving criminal justice by applying his or her knowledge in the process of administering justice to the affected parties using legal procedures and then offering and giving final decision concerning the case at hand (Carr, 2012b). Again, in most cases, the jury will decide the case depending on the arguments that the parties will provide in the court of law during the hearings. In this case, the prosecutor will give evidences to ensure that the defendant is proved guilty or not guilty. In addition, it is the defense attorney’s duty and responsibility to raise evidences to prove the prosecutor otherwise.
Furthermore, it is at this trial stage when the defendant will be judged as either guilty or not guilty. In some case like the felony criminal case, the defendant usually has a right to be tried by the jury. This is because it is the judge’s responsibility to determine whether the defendant is guilty or innocent. On the other hand, in jury trial, the only duty of the judge is to preside over legal proceedings of the trial based on the substantial evidences provided by the defendant. Besides, in cases of trials given by the jury to the defendant, the judge has the responsibility to ensure that a fair and equitable trial is given. Again, the judges in such cases can also ensure that the trial process is impartial, the sentencing given is appropriate and justices is delivered to both the parties involved (US Department of Labor, 2012).
In the trial stage, the judges are always expected to be very fair, neutral, and well balanced in the process of protecting the rights of individuals in the society. Again, they are usually given the authority to ensure that rules are followed to the later; the verdict is given with strict and correct following of procedures; and rules as provided in the rule of law (Thigpen, 2012).
In case the defendant is found to be guilty, proper and correct punishment must and should be meted as provided in the rule of law. Again, it is the judge’s duty and role to provide the most appropriate sentence in case the defendant is found to be guilty. In this felony criminal charge, it is important and clear that the jury will be involved in the delivery of the final trial (Thigpen, 2012).
Lastly, if the accused or defendant is found to be guilty, the matter is taken to the appropriate correctional authorities to complete the censure given. This may involve taking the person to prison to complete the kind of punishment given in order to prevent the possibility of involving into further crimes; hence, the process of rehabilitating the criminal will begin.
The Defendant Constitutional Protection
The bill of rights in the constitution provides and gives protection to the defendant in some cases. For example, the defendant has a right to counsel and ensures that an attorney represents the defendant; hence, he or she can appoint lawyers to help in defending charges (Carr, 2012a). In addition, the defendant also has the right to an impartial and public trial by the jury as provided in the constitution. Again, for proper criminal justice, the constitution also gives the defendant the right to his or her accusers.
Besides, the constitution protects the defendant and gives him or her, the right to compulsory process that gives him or her more defense ability in his or her charges. Lastly, the constitutional right protects the defendant from being prosecuted more than once for the same crime, hence giving them more protections (Dos Santos, & Kassouf, 2013). Furthermore, the constitution gives the defendant protection using exclusionary rule, which prevents the provisions of illegally acquired evidences to be used during trial of the cases.
In the process and practices of criminal justice system, the whole trial is usually full of problems and challenges due to some biasness and discrimination (Carr, 2012b). Therefore, it is important that in the process of provision of justice, many issues should be considered in order for justice to be delivered. For example, the punishment given in form of money should be abolished in order to ensure that biasness is reduced as those who have money may just continue to commit crimes if they know that the only punishment they will get is payment of fine (Carr, 2012a). Again, the time duration that people take before the final judgment should be shortened to allow quick delivery of justice to the affected parties.
Finally yet importantly, the constitutional rights of the defendant to take lawyers who sometimes delay and result to failure of proper justice delivery should be changed and amended appropriately. This is because the inclusion of lawyers always leads to a process where the final decision by the judges is not based on the justice and evidences provided, but is based on the ability of the lawyer to convince the court that his or her client is innocent (Dos Santos, & Kassouf, 2013). Finally, the jury should also be competent and knowledgeable enough to ensure justice is done to both parties.
This paper has discussed the entire process of criminal justice delivery for a felony criminal charge in a state court including the arrest, pretrial charges, full trial and where necessary, the appeal. In addition, the constitution provides guidelines for the protection of defendant, by giving defendant protection rights that should be taken into consideration during the full judicial process. The judicial process needs to be effective in order to ensure all parties are accorded justice as provided for in the law. Therefore, competence and knowledge of judges, prosecution team, attorneys, and other court officials, as well as cooperation of all parties involved in the case at hand would be paramount.
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Thigpen, M. L. (2012). Solicitation for a Cooperative Agreement–Development of a Series of Publications for the Evidence-Based Decision Making in Local Criminal Justice Systems Initiative. Federal Register, 77(141), 43118-43120.
US Department of Labor, Bureau of Labor Statistics. (2012). Occupational outlook handbook, 2012–13 edition: Judges, mediators, and hearing officers. Web.