CHAPTER SEVEN: COURTS AND THE QUEST FOR JUSTICE
FUNCTIONS OF THE COURTS
o The due process function- Protection individual rights.
o The crime control function- Punishment and repression of criminal conduct. If you want to learn more check out What is the meaning of self in infancy?
o The rehabilitation function- Provides treatment for offenders when
o The bureaucratic function-Tasks associated with processing cases,
concerned with speed and efficiency.
Jurisdiction- The authority of a court to hear/decide cases, set by law,
limited by territory and type of case.
Under international law, each country has the right to create and enact We also discuss several other topics like What are the gestures with different meanings overseas?
criminal law for its territory.
o Appellate courts-Courts that review decisions made by lower courts, who
are concerned with questions of law and not fact. Judges issue opinions on
whether the case should be reversed or remanded. About 3/4 of all states
have intermediate appellate courts.
o Trial courts-Have original jurisdiction, and are concerned with questions of If you want to learn more check out What does it mean to say that atoms are not created or destroyed in a chemical reaction?
U.S. Supreme Court
o Dual court system- the separate
but interrelated court system of
U.S. Federal Court of Appeals
Highest State Court of Appeals
Court of Military
the United States, made up of the
State Appeals Court
courts on the national level and the We also discuss several other topics like What is the meaning of factitious disorder in psychology?
Court of Claims
US. Federal District Courts
courts on the state level. We also discuss several other topics like What activity did norman triplett ask children to perform in his first laboratory study of social facilitation?
Local Trial Courts
Court of International
STATE COURT SYSTEMS
o Includes lower courts or local trial
courts, appellate courts, trial courts
and the state's highest court.
COURT OF APPEALS
COURTS OF COMMON PLEAS
DOMESTIC RELATIONS DIVISION Don't forget about the age old question of What provides new genetic combinations?
o Specialty courts- Drug courts, gun
courts, juvenile courts, domestic
MUNICIPAL & COUNTY COURTS
COURT OF CLAIMS JUDGES ASSIGNED BY THE CHIEF JUSTICE
courts, and mental health courts.
THE FEDERAL COURT SYSTEM
o This system is a three-tiered model consisting of the US district courts
(courts in which cases involving federal laws begin) and various courts of
limited jurisdiction, US courts of appeals, and the United States Supreme
o Judicial review- The power of a court to review the actions of the executive
and legislative branches and, if necessary, declare those actions
o Writ of Certiorari- a request from a higher court asking a lower court for the
record of a case. In essence, the request signals the higher courts willingness
to review the case.
o Rule of four- a rule of the US Supreme Court that the court will not issue a
writ of certiorari unless at least four justices approve of the decision to hear
o the Supreme Court's decision in a particular case is based on the written
records of the case and the written arguments (known as briefs) that the
o In all federal courts judges are nominated by the president and confirmed by
JUDGES IN THE COURT SYSTEM
o Selection of state court judges varies. States choose judges in any of the
o Appointment- The state's governor or legislature will choose their judges.
o Merit Selection- Judges are chosen by a legislative committee based on
each potential judge's past performance.
o Partisan Elections- Judges selected through partisan elections are voted in
by the electorate, and often run as part of a political party's slate of
o Non-Partisan Elections-Potential judges that run for a judicial position in
states with non-partisan elections put their names on the ballot, but do not list
their party affiliates.
o Docket- The list of cases entered on a courts calendar and thus scheduled to
be heard by the court.
o Missouri Plan- A method of selecting judges that combines appointment and
o Duties carried out by trial judges before a trial starts include determining the
1. Whether there is sufficient probable cause to issue a search/arrest warrant,
or to authorize electronic surveillance of a suspect.
2. Whether enough evidence exists to justify the temporary incarceration of a
3. Whether a defendant should be released on bail, and if so, at what amount
4. Whether to accept pretrial motions by prosecutors and defense attorneys.
5. Whether to accept a plea bargain
THE COURTROOM WORK GROUP
o The courtroom work group has its own subculture. This is a cooperative unit
of a judge, prosecution (act in the name of the people, serves level of charges
to be brought against suspect, drafts plea bargains), and the defense attorney
(represent the defendant at the various stages of the custodial process).
Case Worker to
o Three other courtroom participants include the bailiff, court reporters, and
the clerk of the court. The judge is the most dominant figure whom exerts
most influence. Judges must follow procedures without deviating at all from
the restrictions and they usually learn the facts of the case as they are
presented by the attorneys.
o More responsibilities of the defense attorney include investigating the
incident for which the defendant was charged, preparing the case for trial,
negotiating a sentence (if the client has been convicted), submitting defense
motions, and determining whether to appeal a guilty verdict.
o Public Defenders-Court-appointed attorneys who are paid by the state to
represent defendants who cannot afford private counsel.
Statistics show that conviction rates of defendants with private counsel and
those represented by publicly funded attorneys are generally the same.
CHAPTER 8: PRETRIAL PROCEDURES AND THE CRIMINAL TRIAL
o Initial appearance occurs promptly after the arrest, usually within 48 hrs.
During this appearance the defendant is informed of the charges, advised of
constitutional rights, given a date for the preliminary hearing, and told amount
o The screening process (funneling, also known as the wedding cake model)
of pretrial stages eliminates from the judicial process about half of all persons
o Bail- The dollar amount or conditions set by the court to ensure that an
individual accused of a crime will appear for further criminal proceedings.
Some defendants can be released once they pay bail alone.
o The 8th amendment prohibits excessive bail but does not guarantee the
right to bail.
o A bail bond assistant is a businessperson who agrees, for a fee, to pay the
bail amount if the accused fails to appear in court as ordered.
o Release On Recoginance- Ajudge's order that releases and accused from jail
with the understanding that he or she will return of his or her own will for
ESTABLISHING PROBABLE CAUSE
o The preliminary hearing aides in deciding whether probable cause has been
established to sustain the charges filed against the defendant. Usually
conducted in the manner of a mini trial. The preliminary hearing begins the
discovery process and may be waived.
o End result: prosecutor will issue an information or the case will be forwarded
to the grand jury (depending on jurisdiction). If the grand jury finds probable
cause they will issue an indictment.
o Indictment- a charge or written accusation, issued by a grand jury, that
probable cause exists to believe that a named person has committed a crime.
o Based on the information or indictment, the prosecutor submits a motion to
the court to order the defendant to appear before the trial court for an
arraignment. At the arraignment, defendants are formally charged with the
criminal offense stated in the indictment and must respond, guilty or not.
o Nolo contendre- "I will not contest"
o Plea bargaining takes place before the trial, after the arraignment.
o Charge reduction or sentence reduction, offense reduction (rare)
0 Almost 97% of criminal conditions occur via plea bargaining and in many
cases this is the best option for defendants (aside from acquittal).
6th amendment- Right to a speedy trial as well as a jury trial
o 5th amendment- Protection against double jeopardy and self incrimination.
o Burden of proof falls on the state and proof beyond a reasonable doubt is
the standard of proof in criminal court.
o The purpose of trial by jury is to protect citizens against arbitrary law
enforcement and prevent government oppression.
o When jury trials are used, seldom is the jury composed of peers.
o The main goal of jury selection is to reproduce a cross section of the
population of the jurisdiction where the crime was committed.
o Master Jury List- the list of citizens in the courts districts from which a jury
can be selected.
o Venire- those chosen from the master list are summoned to appear.
o Virginia dire-process of preliminary questions asked of prospective jurors.
Trial Progression of Criminal Actions
o Attorneys may decide to open the
trial with a statement to the jury in
which they give a brief version of
the facts and the supporting evidence
Grand Jury Returns Indictment
Government's Rebuttal Case
they will present during the trial.
o Testimony-Verbal evidence given
by witnesses under oath.
o Real evidence is presented to the
court in the form of exhibit and includes
any physical items, such as the murder
weapon or a blood-stained piece of
Government's Prosecutor's Case
clothing, that affects the case.
CHAPTER 9: PUNISHMENT AND SENTENCING
THE PURPOSE OF SENTENCING
o The oldest and most common justification for punishing someone is
retribution, which claims that those who commit criminal acts should be
punished based only on the severity of the crime and that no other factors
need be considered.
o Deterrence-Preventing future crimes through the threat of punishment.
o Incapacitation- Preventing crime by detaining wrongdoer in prison,
separating them from the community and reducing criminal opportunities.
o Rehabilitation- Providing wrongdoer the resources they need to eliminate
criminality from their behavioral pattern.
o Restorative justice strategies focus on concerns of the victim (and the
victim's family) in attempt to repair the damage that a crime has done to him
or her, and the society as a whole.
THE STRUCTURE OF SENTENCING
o Legislatures make laws and determine types and lengths of sentences
o Indeterminate sentencing-An indeterminate term of incarceration in which a
judge determines the minimum and maximum terms of imprisonment.
o Determinate sentencing. A period of incarceration that is fixed by a
sentencing authority and cannot be reduced by judges or other corrections
o Truth-In-Sentencing Laws- Legislative attempts to ensure that convicts will
serve approx. the terms to which they were initially sentenced. Many states
require offenders to serve at least 85% of their sentence.
The judge has the ultimate authority to determine the defendants fate.
o Appropriate forms of possible punishment include:
Capital punishment, imprisonment, fines, probation, restitution, etc.
o Two main participants in the sentencing ritual are the judge and the
defendant. Other participants include defense and prosecuting attorneys, jury,
and the probation officer.
o (PSI) Pre-sentence Investigative Report-Compiled by a probation officer and
assists the judge in determining the appropriate sentence, includes past
history and sentencing recommendations.
o Factors that may influence sentences include:
1. Seriousness of the Crime-conviction offense v. Real offense
2. Mitigating Circumstances-leads to a lighter sentence. May include lack of
capabilities, acting under provocation.
3. Aggravating Circumstances- leads to a harsher punishment. May include
leading a group of defendants, cruelty of offense.
4. Judicial Philosophy-judges personal philosophy may prove unpopular.
o Sentencing Disparity- A situation in which those convicted of similar crimes
do not receive similar sentences.
o Sentencing Discrimination- A situation in which the length of a sentence
appears to be influenced by a defendant's race, gender, economic status, or
other factor not directly related to the crime he or she committed.
o Sentencing guidelines are laws passed by politicians that limit a judge's
power to deviate from the requirements.
o Habitual Offender Laws-Statutes that require lengthy prison sentences for
those who are convicted of multiple felonies.
(VIS) Victim Impact Statement- A statement to the sentencing body in which
the victim is given the opportunity to describe how the crime has affected her
o Capital punishment may include electrocution, lethal injection, firing squad,
hanging, lethal gas, etc.
o Furman v. Georgia (1972):
Put a moratorium on the death penalty declaring that the death penalty as
administered by states violated the eighth amendment. This case provided
states the opportunity to bring their death penalty statutes up to constitutional
standards including a bifurcation process.