Law is a body of rules for human conduct enforced by imposing penalties for their violation. To ensure each U.
S citizen the right to “life, liberty, and the pursuit of happiness,” those who settled here established laws that all are expected to obey. The supreme law of the land is embodied in the U.S constitution and its bill of rights. This system of law is extremely complex and may be classified according to:Form – written or unwritten common lawSource – constitutional, statutory, caseParties involved – public, privateOffense – criminal, civilIn addition to the classification of law provided, several types of law must be understood to appreciate their complexities and effect on criminal justice.
Laws define social obligations and determine the individuals’ relation to society and to each other. The purpose of the law is to regulate individuals’ actions to conform to the way of life the community or the people’s elected representatives consider essential.Social or moral law.Obedience to law often is obtained through social pressure—ridicule, contempt, scorn or ostracism.
Moral or social laws include laws of etiquette, “honor” and morality. When moral laws break down and social sanctions fail to obtain conformity, other laws may be enacted and enforced.Precedents: Common law and Case lawThe beginnings of law are found in social custom. Custom is simply precedent – doing what has been done before.
In early times custom, religion, morals and the law were intermingled. Some early customs have, over the centuries, become law. Precedent explains why many good ideas in criminal justice are so slow to materialize. Some customs were enforced physically rather than morally, and the violator was expelled from the community, sacrificed to the gods or even hanged (Hess & Orthmann, 2008)All law can be classified into two categories: civil law and criminal law.
As U.S. criminal law has evolved, it has diverged from U.S.
civil law. The two categories of law are distinguished by their primary goals. The criminal justice system is concerned with protecting society from harm by preventing and prosecuting crimes. A crime is an act so comprehensible that it is considered a wrong against society as a whole, as well as against society as a whole, as well as against the individual victim.
Therefore, the state prosecutes a person who commits a criminal act. If the state is able to prove that a person is guilty of a crime, the government will punish him or her with imprisonment or fines, or both.Civil law, which includes all types of law other than criminal law, is concerned with disputes between private individuals and between entities. Proceedings in civil lawsuit are normally initiated by an individual or a corporation (in contrast to criminal proceedings, which are initiated by public prosecutor).
Such disputes may involve, for example, the terms of a contract, the ownership of property, or an automobile accident. Under civil law, the government provides a forum for the resolution of torts—or private wrongs—in which the injured party called the plaintiff tries to prove that a wrong has been committed by the accused party, or the defendant. (Note that the accused party in both criminal and civil cases is known as the defendant).A criminal court is convened is convened to determined whether the defendant is guilty—that is, whether the defendant has, in fact, committed the offense charged.
In contrast, civil law is concerned with responsibility, a much more flexible concept. For example, after seventeen year old Benjamin White stabbed thirteen year old Casey Hilmer in 2005, a Cincinnati civil Jury partially blamed White’s parents. Lance and Diane White, the jury ruled, were liable, or legally responsible, for their son’s actions because they failed to properly supervise or control him.Most civil cases involve a request for monetary damages to compensate for the wrong that has been committed.
Thus , the Cincinnati jurors ordered the White’s to pay Hilmer and her family $6.5 million for medical bills and the “pain and suffering” caused by her injuries.Although criminal law proceedings are completely separate from civil law proceedings in the modern legal system, the two systems do have some similarities. Both attempt to control behavior by imposing sanctions on those who violate the law.
Furthermore, criminal and civil law often supplement each other. In certain instances, a victim may file a civil suit against an individual who is also the target of a criminal prosecution by the government.Because the burden of proof is much greater in criminal trials than civil ones, it is usually easier to win monetary damages than a criminal conviction. In March 2005, for example, a California jury acquitted actor Robert Blake of murdering or soliciting someone else to murder his wife, Bonny Lee Bakley.
Six months after the criminal trial, however, Bakley’s children from a previous marriage won a $30 million civil lawsuit against Blake. In this case the government had been unable to prove beyond a reasonable doubt (the burden of proof in criminal cases) that Blake was responsible for Bakley’s 2001 shooting death in a car outside a restaurant where the couple had just dined. Nevertheless, the civil trial established by a preponderance of the evidence (the burden of proof in civil cases) that Blake was behind the killing (Gaines & Miller, 2008).Criminal law is created to provide guidance and protection to those injured by offenses against society.
The criminal justice system has been created to deter, punish, and rehabilitate persons who perform criminal acts. Criminal conduct can include forgery, burglary, murder, assault, battery, theft, rape, and false imprisonment. A criminal action by an individual is considered a criminal act against society even if it is directed solely at an individual. For example, with a charge of assault and battery, the criminal justice system is designed so that the offense is seen and viewed as an act against society as a whole.
In a criminal action, the level of proof required is “beyond a reasonable doubt” which must be 51% or more. In a medical malpractice claim (civil tort law), the proof is met by a preponderance of the evidence.”ExamplesIf, for example, a person is practicing medicine without a license, is that considered a civil or criminal offense? (This is a criminal offense against the general public and society)If the state statute requires that child or elder abuse be reported and a nurse or physician refuses to report the abuse, is this considered a criminal or civil action? (Criminal).If a patient receives too much of a medication because the nurse fails to properly administer the correct dose, causing respiratory arrest and brain damage, is this considered a criminal or civil matter? (Civil) (Iyer, & American Association of Legal Nurse Consultants, 2002).
The goals of criminal justice are multiple, vague, and often in conflict. Police officers are commanded to “enforce all the laws.” Informally, they can’t (and they shouldn’t). Prosecutors are told formally to “do justice.
” Informally they pursue other goals like winning cases, cracking down on specific crimes, improving efficiency, and saving the people’s tax dollars. Judges have to impose sentences that are supposed to punish, incapacitate, and reform individual defendants while protecting the community by sending a message to prevent criminal wannabes from committing crimes (Samaha, 2005). Probation officers are supposed to police and counsel offenders in the community. Correction officers are supposed to maintain order and prevent escapes from prisons, discipline prisoners, and turn them into people who can return to society ready to work and play by the rules.
The crime control agencies make up the structure of the criminal justice system, but there’s more to the system than its structure. Criminal justice can’t decide anything: rather, it’s the framework for decision making. Here’s is where decision making comes in: the criminal justice process is all about decision making in the agencies by criminal justice professionalsAs if these challenges are not enough, professionals don’t have the luxury of time to consider their decisions. They have to decide right now to accomplish their goals.
ReferencesGaines, L. K. & Miller, R. L.
(2008). Criminal Justice in Action. Belmont: Cengage Learning.Hess, K.
M. & Orthmann, C. H. (2008).
Introduction to Law Enforcement and Criminal Justice. Belmont: Cengage Learning.Iyer, P. W.
& American Association of Legal Nurse Consultants. (2002). Legal nurse consulting: principles and practice. New York: CRC Press.
Samaha, J. (2005). Criminal justice. Belmont: Cengage Learning.