The American Legal System

This research proposal investigates the available literature on American Legal System. This literature will form the basis of a research to be conducted on the suitability and limitations of the system. According to the literature available, the legal system of the United States has been defined mainly by the ground-breaking report of “The President’s Commission on Law Enforcement and Administration of Justice” of 1967. The report encompassed over 200 proposals that were incorporated into a comprehensive policy of crime mitigation. As such, the entire system of coordination of law enforcement, court systems, and correction agencies has improved tremendously. The legal system operates within the bounds of both the Federal and State Constitutions. The National Constitution or the Federal Constitution is the supreme law, based on which all legal matters transcending beyond a single state are determined. However, the jurisdiction of this law is sometimes limited, especially considering that individual states constitutionally posses sovereignty that limits the federal government from interfering with their affairs. For instance, there are cases whereby the state gives its citizens broader constitutional rights than the federal government grants them. The two levels of legal systems draw largely to the common law that came into effect during the Revolutionary War. However, there were certain deviations that arose as the United States incorporated certain aspects of the civil law. Essentially, the system has a total of four sources that include constitutional law and the statutory law. According to literature, the Supreme Court has the discretion to render invalid, any statutes that conflict with the constitution. According to the Constitution, such a statute has to be deleted by inserting another statute in the Constitution to its effect. This makes the American Legal System one of the most stringent in the world today. Nonetheless, this system has several shortcomings that have seen some people term it as the most corrupt legal system in the world. The intended research will elucidate these limitations and propose the possible remedies that would make the United States the envy of the world (Ratcliffe 2007).

The American legal system is certainly not perfect as it has a range of limitations in the process of the pursuit of justice. Although founded on the principle of human equality and the sanctity of human life, these ideals have not been achieved so far. For instance, the fact that Federal judges are life-appointees of the United States usually results in vested interests taking precedence over fair administration of justice. According to Forbes, it is a typical system that leaves its cruisers at sea whenever a big disaster strikes. The research will be based mainly on these shortcomings and how the current leaders can rise to the occasion and fix the problems. However, to understand these system limitations it is prudent to comprehend the functional modalities of the American Legal System right from the Police, the Courts and the Correction System. According to literature, none of these systems can succeed without the other (Nadelmann, 1993).

The Police

The US Police has the sole responsibility of maintaining law and order to ensure that all citizens coexist peacefully. Besides, the system investigates persons suspected in engaging in criminal activity and refers the results of their investigations to the courts for further study and determination. Then the system is charged with the responsibility of deterring the commission of criminal activity and mitigating criminal networks that are already in progress by enforcing warrants of arrests to the suspects. Although issuance of warrants of arrest is a sole discretion of the courts of law, the Police take charge of all the procedures and risks involved in enforcing these warrants. Policemen also provide emergency responses to any matters threatening the safety of the general public and ensuring that all public facilities and national infrastructure is protected from destruction. Essentially, this not only ensures that the public are safe wherever they are, but also provides realistic avenues for seeking safety in case normal security operations are breached. In order to achieve this, the system has been organized at different levels of government among them federal level, state level and at the level of the county (Sheptycki, 2000).

The Federal Police System

The Federal Police System has the absolute authority of the national government of the United States accorded to it by the “United States Code”, to enforce various regulations at the federal level. Despite having limited jurisdiction, their mandate still remains quite extensive, especially with the legislation of the US Patriot Act. This often leads to intervention form multiple agencies in case a disaster strikes that covers a wide geographical location or affects a large part of the American population. Although this implies a swift and speedy response to disasters, it poses the challenge of command as the different units have their own systems of training and functioning that are independent of one another (Neocleous, 2004).

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The Constitution greatly restricts the jurisdiction of the Federal government on judicial matters, considering that individual states in the U.S. have a significant level of sovereignty. This implies that each of them retains most powers in matters related to policing, military and domestic legislations. As such, a criminal who commits a non-federal offence and does not flee to his or her native state remains under the custody of the state police and not the federal police. However, this would certainly change if the fugitive crosses the state borders into a different state or commits a crime that falls under the category of federal offenses. Although this complicates the process of law enforcement, it certainly ensures that criminals do not go unscathed even if they manage to dodge a state police (Nadelmann, 1993).

The State Police System

All states operate law enforcement agencies that carry out investigations as well as patrols within the state. For instance, the State Department of Public Safety encompasses the State Patrol, State Police, and the Highway Patrol that work together to ensure public safety. Besides, the State Attorney’s office has its own body of investigations that help in monitoring and apprehending criminal activities within the specific states. In terms of management, the State Governors appoint the directors of their respective state police to undertake a range of tasks. For instance, the directors of these agencies coordinate all the processes of criminal investigations and organize the system so as to maintain centralized records for crimes committed within the state. Besides, they manage the highway patrol system of the state so as to mitigate highway robbery and operate a crime lab that is basically concerned with identification of criminals. Although this mandate was not widely developed in the past, it has tremendously improved with the adoption of DNA tests in criminal identifications. Further, the state police conduct training activities for the municipal as well as county police as it has the expertise in professional training (Sheptycki, 2000).  

The County and Municipal Police Systems

The policing services at the county level are coordinated mainly by Sheriffs. Sheriffs are elected officials, who have the constitutional authority to enforce law, perform duties assigned to them by the court, and participate in correctional duties. In some instances, they operate the county jails or serve as constitutional office holders in the county courts. Although they operate mainly in cities and metropolitan counties, the county police generally have countywide jurisdiction. For instance, the full-service category of county police provides a broad range of services to the county regardless of their levels of development or the local community. Conversely, the restricted service category provides security services to property of the counties as well as public utilities like parks. In some cities, there are independent police systems that work independently of the federal or state police. For instance, the New York City Police Department is one of the most efficient security departments in spite of the fact that their mandate is limited to New York City. Indeed, they played a pivotal role in securing people and administering first aid during the 9/11. Ideally, the municipal police bear most of the responsibility relating to violent crimes as they are closer to the people and societies where most crimes are committed. These are headed by chiefs who are appointed by the respective city mayors to manage security issues within the city. Although they differ in sizes and areas of jurisdictions, these systems are well organized to tackle high level criminal activities that are rampant in big cities like Detroit and Chicago (Nadelmann, 1993).

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Essentially, the police system in the United States has three broad mandates. For instance, they are actively involved in maintenance of law and order by eliminating any social elements that are a threat to national security. Moreover, the police have the discretion to enforce laws by identifying and apprehending suspects of criminal activities like murder or violent robbery. The most critical and the least appreciated function of the police is provision of services like first aid and tourism information. According to Cole Smith, 80% of calls for assistance from the police do not always involve crimes. In fact, the public has become more proactive in seeking services of the police on matters like searching for lost pets or property (Ratcliffe, 2007). 

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