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This essay investigates the literature on criminal justice. It examines the procedures involved in the entire criminal justice process for a felony criminal charge filed in a state court. In addition, the paper investigates all the legal steps that one would undergo right from the time of arrest through pre-trial, trial, and appeals. Besides, it addresses the contingencies for each stage of the proceedings and examines all possible outcomes in as far as criminal justice is concerned. According to the literature, this system encompasses the practices and legal institutions that seek to uphold social control over people by deterring them from committing crimes. This is achieved through administering of punitive measures to those who violate laws or take them through rehabilitation. Accordingly, persons accused of committing crimes have far reaching protections against any acts of abuse during the process of investigation and prosecution (David, 2002).
The criminal justice process in United States varies considerably from state to state. However, they are all very distinct from the federal criminal justice system that is credited with its own rules, legal terms as well as procedures that define the stages of every proceeding. However, a general overview of the entire process includes the investigatory aspects, issuance of search warrants, interrogation, arrest and arraignment in court among others. The investigatory procedures may start in different ways depending on the nature of the crime committed. For instance, a traffic officer could have the privilege of observing a speeder on the roads and pull them over to mark the beginning of investigatory procedures, as to whether they are driving under the influence of alcohol. In other instances, the police may be called upon to determine the cause of a “911” call of shots that has been fired in the neighborhood. However, most commonly, persons who is being defrauded or has been defrauded by a con artist may make a phone call to the law enforcement agencies reporting a crime so that the officers can launch investigations (Jerold & Yale & Wayne, 2003).
Issuance of Search Warrant and Interrogation
A search warrant may be issued in case the investigating officer has sufficient grounds to believe that a person has committed a crime at a particular locality. As such, they could present the evidence they have in order to get a search warrant that would then allow them to search the premises where suspicion appears to mount. However, it would be upon the judge to review the facts together with the information given by the police and determine if indeed there is a “probable cause” to support the issuance. The implication of a “probable cause” in this instance is the provision that the officers have handed in adequate facts that point strongly to the fact that there could be evidence related to crime at a particular location defined in a search warrant. There are certain instances, though, where a search warrant may not be necessary. For instance, situations where there is an emergency, where the evidence could be destroyed or where the said crime is actually being committed. When granted permission to search the specified premises, the officers may go further to interrogate the persons found in the vicinity to distinguish certain facts. However, this is not restricted to situations of warrant as officers have the discretion to interrogate any perceived witnesses so long as this is done in a way that protects their constitutional rights and privileges. This particular law that allows for all perceived witnesses, real or imagined, often causes unnecessary inconveniences to “the potential witnesses”. This is because innocent personalities are often forced to waste their precious time with investigations that are eventually found not to concern them. As such, people should only help with investigations at their own behest or when there are adequate facts pointing to their involvement (Samuel 1977).
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Arrests and Indictments
Arrest of persons may be executed if a person is found committing or commits a felony as the law enforcement agent watches. Actually, this may be done without the need of a warrant if they commit crimes in the presence of a police officer. At other times, an officer may consider arresting a person if he/she has enough facts related to the probable cause that the person has committed a felony even if the crime was not committed in their presence. As a matter of fact, any arrests could be made anywhere including public places whether or not the officers have a warrant. However, there are cases that may prompt the law enforcing officers to make arrests in private as making them public could jeopardize further investigations. These may typically require that the officer obtain an arrest warrant unless of course in situations of emergency or where there are chances the suspect could flee. Nonetheless, there is only a short duration that the law allows the law enforcement officers to arrest and charge the suspects or have them released. This period varies from state to state although the range is between 24 to 48 hours from the time of arrest (Jerold & Yale & Wayne, 2003).
The actual filing of a criminal charge against a suspect may take place before or after the suspect has been arrested. The filing of a complaint or written charges is the step that starts off the process of administering a criminal justice procedure. However, a prosecutor may also set the process in motion by filing written charges that are known in legal terms as “information”. It is this filing of complaint or information that gives authority to the law enforcement officers to lock up suspects or keep them in custody pending other criminal proceedings including arraignment in court and setting of an appropriate bail which is actually on the discretion of judges. In about half of the states in United States, the defendants reserve the right to be indicted by a grand jury or as therein determined by the court officers. This implies that a jury that encompasses citizens must have the opportunity to hear the evidence as presented by the prosecutor (FBI, 2009).
Besides they determine on their own terms if indeed there are sufficient grounds to believe that crimes were committed and that the accused person was actually involved. However, there are states that use a different procedure known as “preliminary hearing”. This is the stage where a judge is given a chance to peruse the evidence as presented by the prosecution team and make a decision as to whether there is a probable cause to be associated with the accused person. Essentially, the process of administering criminal justice would begin by filling of the relevant information. This is then followed by the proceedings of grand jury, a process that could culminate in indictments or the preliminary hearing as applied in certain states. However, these only make up an accusation and cannot in any way prove that the suspects indeed committed crimes for which they have been charged. This is why any persons going through this stage must be handled with extreme care considering the legal provision that persons who stand accused of any crime are innocent until they are proved guilty. As such, there are clear legal provisions outlining that any accused persons would continue to enjoy all their human rights until such a time when a case is proved against (Samuel, 1977).