What is the Criminal Justice System?
The criminal justice system is the set of agencies and processes established by governments to control crime and impose penalties on those who violate laws. There is no single criminal justice system in the United States but rather many similar, individual systems. How the criminal justice system works in each area depends on the jurisdiction that is in charge: city, county, state, federal or tribal government or military installation. Different jurisdictions have different laws, agencies, and ways of managing criminal justice processes.1 The main systems are: State: State criminal justice systems handle crimes committed within their state boundaries. Federal: The federal criminal justice system handles crimes committed on federal property or in more than one state.
Most criminal justice systems have five components-law enforcement, prosecution, defense attorneys, courts, and corrections, each playing a key role in the criminal justice process. Law Enforcement: Law enforcement officers take reports for crimes that happen in their areas. Officers investigate crimes and gather and protect evidence. Prosecution: Prosecutors are lawyers who represent the state or federal government (not the victim) throughout the court process-from the first appearance of the accused in court until the accused is acquitted or sentenced. Defense Attorneys: Defence attorneys defend the accused against the government's case. Courts: Courts are run by judges, whose role is to make sure the law is followed and oversee what happens in court. Corrections: Correction officers supervise convicted offenders when they are in jail, in prison, or in the community on probation or parole. How the Criminal Justice Process Works
Below is a basic outline of the sequence of events in the criminal justice process, beginning when the crime is reported or observed. The process may vary according to the jurisdiction, the seriousness of the...
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