Discretionary authority in the Criminal Justice system
April 11th, 2011
Discussions in how discretion is exercised in the legal profession often raises debate in the criminal justice system. Discretion is vastly misused in many of the criminal justice fields. Areas such as youth justice, sentencing, policing, and a host of many other legal fields need better understanding, interpretation and communication. As with many practices, the object of measuring these areas is to understand constraints on its use and areas where it can be regulated better. This paper will reflect the role of discretion and how it is conceived in the justice system. In addition, this paper will examine how individuals elect to measure legal discretion from the public’s point of view as often the public sees only the negative terms of it. Role of Discretion in Youth Justice
Decision-making discretion in youth justice has been the concern for many of the law officials working in the criminal justice system. Presently, personnel are examining many of the factors that police face when they have to deal with youth offenders. In the past, Police did not always follow proper conduct when cases were reviewed. Officers documented different accounts from what actually transpired. Because of these ‘mixed signals’, New procedures were implemented out of fear that police were inadequately dealing with repeat offenders because they found a number of inconsistencies in police responses (Gelthorpe, L and Padfeld, 2003). These new procedures better serve police officials in the discretionary guidelines involving youth offenders. More so, police may pursue a different approach when dealing with young offenders. Rather than using informal action or recommending charges, police may choose to refer to or recommend alternative measures (Youth Justice). In many cases, law enforcers will recommend pre or post charge alternative measures dealing with youth-related incidents. The most common alternative measures programs assigned to youth are community service, an apology, social skills improvement, writing an essay, restitution or compensation, and other activities geared toward the specific young person (Kowalski, 1999). These alternative measures allow police to have some input in assessing, developing, and implementing a plan that will best monitor a youth’s compliance to the recommended program. Role of Discretion in Sentencing
The role of sentence discretion in trial sentencing has many law officials up in arms concerning undeserving sentence breaks. Recently, Lawrence Taylor, a former NFL star was sentenced to six years probation (no jail time) for having sex with a 16 year old girl. Many court officials and some public figures believed that the courts gave Taylor preferential treatment because he was a celebrity. Some think the prosecutorial discretion for the DA to allow Taylor to plead to two misdemeanors rather than a felony plea was insane (Otis, 2011). What are we to make of a system in which a seemingly sweetheart deal like this happens? Who is to blame, and what can be done (Otis, 2011)? In scenarios such as the Lawrence Taylor verdict, court sentencing is usually in a no win situation. As long as the criminal justice system is constructed and run by human beings, discretion is going to be part of it. There will be happy and sad people on both sides of the Judge’s decision. The question is not whether discretion can be eliminated in either the executive or judicial branches; the question is how it can be intelligently constrained so as to reduce unwarranted disparity in the treatment of criminals (Otis, 2011). As of date, there is no perfect answer for it. Role of Discretion in Policing
Discretion plays an important role in the line of work for every police officer. On many levels, police undergo every type of discretion needed to perform their duties daily. These discretions give greater...