U.S. Government Chapter 15 Section 3
Criminal Law U.S. Government Chapter 15 Section 3
Warm up List 3-5 things you know or would like to learn about criminal law?
Criminal law In criminal law cases, the government charges someone with a crime and is always the prosecution. A crime is an act that breaks government laws and causes injury or harm to people or society in general. *Sometimes a crime can be not doing something that a person may be required by law to do. Most crimes in the U.S. break state laws and are tried in state courts Federal crimes break federal laws and are tried in federal courts The criminal justice system is responsible for enforcing criminal law. This system includes state and federal courts, judges, lawyers, police, and prisons. Crimes committed by minors are handled by a separate juvenile justice system What are some examples of state/federal crimes?
Types of crime Petty Offenses: minor crimes that results in citations or tickets rather than arrest. Ex: littering, disturbing the peace, minor trespassing, driving above speed limit Misdemeanors: more serious crimes that, if found guilty, result in arrest, fine, sentence to jail usually for a year or less. Ex: vandalism, simple assault, stealing inexpensive items, being drunk & disorderly Felonies: serious crimes that are punishable by imprisonment for a year or more. Ex: kidnapping, arson, rape, fraud, forgery, manslaughter, or murder *Murder crimes can result in a death punishment *conviction of felonies may also result in the loss of certain civil rights like voting, owning a firearm.
Steps in criminal cases: 1. Investigation and arrest
Police suspect a crime has been committed and start investigation to gather evidence and obtain an arrest warrant. A valid arrest warrant has the suspect’s name and alleged crime Arrest can occur without a warrant if the police catch someone in the act of committing a crime or if they have reasonable suspicion a person has committed a crime. Person is taken to a police station and charges are recorded/booked. Peron can be legally fingerprinted, photographed without a lawyer but they can choose to not answer any questions without an attorney present.
Steps in criminal cases: 2. Initial appearance
When someone is arrested he/she must be brought before a judge as quickly as possible (usually within 24 hours) to be formally charged with a crime. Judge explains charges to the person and their rights. If the crime is a misdemeanor the defendant may plead guilty and the judge will decide on a penalty. If defendant pleads not guilty the judge sets a trial date. When the crime is a felony, the judge rather sets a preliminary hearing instead of a plea The judge may also decide if the suspect will be released, with or without bail, or held in custody .
Steps in criminal cases: 3. Preliminary hearing or grand jury
This step varies from state to state. In federal courts and some state courts, cases will go to a grand jury, a group of citizens that will decide if there is enough evidence to hand up an indictment (formal criminal charge). Grand jury hearings are conducted secretly, not a trial, no legal representation. Grand juries are not used very much, are replaced with an information (prosecution asserts there is enough evidence to go to trial) OR A preliminary hearing may be used instead of a grand jury indictment. Prosecution presents case to the judge. The defendant’s lawyer may represent defendant. if the judge believes there is a probable cause that the defendant is guilty of the crime, the case moves to the next step. If the judge does not believe there is enough evidence to prove the crime, the case is dismissed, charges are dropped.
Steps in criminal cases: 4. Plea bargaining
About 90% of cases come to an end with a guilty plea. Plea Bargaining is the process where the prosecutor, defense lawyer, and police work out an agreement through which the defendant pleads guilty to a lesser crime. The government in return does not prosecute the more serious crime. Supporters say this is an efficient process. People who oppose believe this process allows criminals to get off lightly.
Steps in criminal cases: 5. arraignment and pleas
After the preliminary hearing or grand jury indictment, the next step is arraignment. The judge reads the formal charge against the defendant in an open courtroom. The defendant may have an attorney present and may be asked questions to make sure he/she understands the charges. The defendant enters one of four pleas: 1. not guilty 2. not guilty by reason of insanity 3. guilty or 4. no contest ( “I will not contest it,” defendant gives up right to a defense)
Steps in criminal cases: 6. the trial
Courts are often crowded so defendants may have to wait a while before trial. Defendants have the option of having a jury trial or a trial with only a judge (bench trial). A jury is a group of citizens who hear evidence and decide guilt or innocence. Defendants have the right to not testify during their trial, does not admit guilt. Attorneys say opening statements Witnesses are called and evidence is presented (first prosecution then defense) Attorneys present closing arguments and summarize cases.
Steps in criminal cases: 7. the decision
After the closing arguments, the judge gives the jury a set of instructions and explains the law that the jury must apply to the facts of the trial. The jury then goes to a room to make a decision. Jury deliberations are secret and no set time limit. In most criminal cases the verdict (decision) must be unanimous. If a jury cannot reach a decision it is called a hung jury--a new trial is scheduled.
Steps in criminal cases: 8. sentencing
If the verdict is not guilty, the defendant is released immediately and with few exceptions cannot be tried again for the same crime. If the verdict is guilty, the judge determines the sentence or punishment. Sentences specify a time in prison and may involve a fine or payment. Sentences vary with various crimes.
Juvenile Crime Juveniles (at least 14 years old) may be tried as adults in certain states for crimes including, but not limited to: Murder Armed Robbery Rape Violent Assault In some states juveniles may be sentenced to adult prison as early as 16, and in other states, they may wait until age 18 to transfer them to adult prison. Some states have “once an adult always an adult” for offenders who were at least 16 at the time of their first conviction as an adult. Should juveniles be tried as adults for certain crimes? Why or why not?
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