The Discretionary Powers of the Criminal Justice System of the United States

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T he discretionary powers of the Criminal Justice system of the United States

By Jonell Fergsuon

“In the Criminal justice system the police, the prosecutors and corrections are afforded discretion with regard to enforcing and interpreting the law.” Here I will discuss both pros and cons with regards to the fair administration of justice in the United States.

The Police
The police are afforded a wide range of discretional powers, covering things from deciding whether or to arrest someone to determining disciplinary actions in the workplace. With regards to deciding to arrest someone, I can see many reasons why this discretion is necessary. For example the police come across two young girls in a park smoking marijuana.
Now the law says lock them up, however the police can use their discretion and decide to lecture the girls about the dangers of drug use and let them off with a warning. This is a win-win for everyone involved the girls don’t get in trouble and the police can go back to focusing on more important crimes. However there are instances where this discretion can be a hindrance or annoyance to people in a neighborhood. Let’s say there is a young man standing in front of his building, the police walk up and tell him to move along. Now as far as the young man knows he’s not breaking any laws by standing there so he challenges the police’s authority. A few words are exchanged and the young man is arrested and charged with resisting arrest, the charges don’t stick and the case gets thrown out but the police were justified within the realm of their discretion to arrest him even though he broke no laws. The same goes for the discretion afforded to police with regard to the use of force. It is my opinion that they have too much leeway in this area. How can we the public differentiate between whether the use of force was justified or if that particular cop was having a bad day? We can’t. A cop can punch a 15 yr old girl in the face of shoot a



Bibliography: 1. Professor Ron Clare, BMCC 2. Parker, Ann Louise. “Differential use of discretionary powers police and young offenders”. 2004 School of International studies, University of South Australia http://arrow.unisa.edu.au:8080/vital/access/manager/Repository/unisa 3. http://wiki.answers.com/Q/What_are_the_US_Supreme_Court 's_discretionary_powers 4. <a href="http://legal-dictionary.thefreedictionary.com/U.S+Supreme+Court">Supreme Court of the United States</a> 5. http://wiki.answers.com/Q/What_are_the_US_Supreme_Court 's_discretionary_powers 6. http://www.law.cornell.edu/rules/supct/20.html 7. http://www.jstor.org/stable/1120583

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