My Cousin Vinny is a hilarious rendition of the American criminal justice system. It taps into various elements of the system as a whole. Most people probably never realize the formality that goes into actually being convicted of a crime. My Cousin Vinny explores many of the steps such as pretrial stages, key actors in the court process, and the criminal trial. There are some difference and similarities between what the movie portrayed and the actual criminal justice process which will be explored. In the movie, My Cousin Vinny, when Bill and Stan went to Alabama, they thought they were getting pulled over because Bill stole some tuna fish. The county Sherriff pulled them over with his gun drawn. Now to me, the fact the Sheriff had his weapon pointed at the suspects stood out to me. So, at best, Bill and Stan could have been pulled over and approached with no weapons drawn and then properly searched. However the sheriff felt as though he had probable cause to pull them over. This is exactly what would be done in a typical situation if a felony or misdemeanor is believed to have been committed. Unbeknownst to the pair, they were being pulled over for a felony, which according to our text, is “a relatively serious offense punishable by death, a fine, or confinement in a state or federal prison for more than a year.” (Bohm and Haley, p.35) Now, I am unsure of the proper procedures for pulling someone over when it is a felony verses something less minor like a misdemeanor. Then Bill and Stan were arrested. Now, we all know that an arrest by no means equals a conviction of a crime. The arrest appeared to be normal for most jurisdictions. Again the sheriff had probable cause to make the arrest. However, the booking process was a bit different from the actual process. “Booking is the process in which suspects’ names, the charges for which they were arrested, and perhaps their fingerprints or photographs are entered on the police blotter.” (Bohm and Haley, p.285) In the movie there were no steps that were shown in the booking process. Bill and Stan went straight from a line-up to being questioned by a sheriff deputy. Typically following a booking the prosecutor would review all information to determine whether there’s enough evidence to charge the suspects with an actually crime. (Bohm and Haley, p285) The booking is something that was not clearly revealed in the movie. But they were transported and went straight into questioning which is also appropriate. Bill and Stan went to a state correction facility, where according to our text, they were detained under preventative detention. The boys were allowed a phone call. Bill called his mom and explained what happened but never did he mention anything about posting bail. This is what leads me to believe they were held in prison because they were charged with murder and considered to be a threat to the community if released. However, in Vinny’s first courtroom appearance, the arraignment took place. As our text states there is no certain order to the pretrial stages. So, based on that information the movie proved to be pretty accurate with going from the arraignment, to stating the amount of the bail, and then the preliminary hearing. To get a little more specific, the arraignment process in the movie was a bit flawed. The judge stated to the defense attorney that his clients were charged with first degree murder and asked how his clients plea. In my understanding, the information, which outlines the formal charge or charges (Bohm and Haley, p.13) presented by the prosecutor. I mentioned earlier about the bail being set, Vinny, the defense attorney never asked that Bill and Stan be released or to lower the bail amount which is something that would take place in a normal court proceeding. Now, let’s talk about the preliminary hearing. This hearing is when the judge determines if there’s enough probable cause to support the charge or charges imposed by the prosecutor. Preliminary...
Bohm-Haley. Introduction to Criminal Justice. McGraw-Hill.
dictionary.com. (2010, January 27). Retrieved January 27, 2010, from dictionary.com: http://dictionary.reference.com/browse/media
Lynn, J. (Director). (1992). My Cousin Vinny [Motion Picture].
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