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Chapter Topics

Chapter Topics. Crime Policing Arrests The Defendant Prosecution Grand Juries Exclusionary Rules Case Attrition The Criminal Justice Wedding Cake. Crime. Crimes known to the police increased for twenty years, declined in the 1990s and have stabilized the last few years

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Chapter Topics

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  1. Chapter Topics Crime Policing Arrests The Defendant Prosecution Grand Juries Exclusionary Rules Case Attrition The Criminal Justice Wedding Cake

  2. Crime • Crimes known to the police increased for twenty years, declined in the 1990s and have stabilized the last few years • Data comes from the FBI Uniform Crime Reports • Type I offenses (homicide, rape, arson, aggravated assault, robbery, burglary, auto theft, larceny over $50) • Type II offenses (theft, simple assault, public drunkenness, disorderly conduct, etc.)

  3. Crime • 1 in 4 crimes is Type I • Fighting crime is a regular campaign slogan, but is a difficult social problem. • Despite money and effort crime remains persistent. • U.S. has the highest crime rate of any Western industrial nation • A large number of American are fearful of crime, however studies show that is not necessarily related to actual risk

  4. Policing • Policing is decentralized (800,000 officers in nearly 18,000 agencies) • Historically connected to party politics • Today regulated by civil service • Modern policing is heavilyinfluenced by problem solving approaches (e.g., community policing)

  5. Arrests • Of crimes brought to the attention of the police, only 20% result in arrest (clearance rate) • varies by type of crime, 46% of violent crimes result in arrest, but only 16% of property offenses • 13.6 million people arrested • drug and property crime arrests are nearly triple the arrests for violent crime

  6. The Defendant • Most defendants are charged with nonviolent offenses • Career criminals make up a disproportionate share of the arrests • Felony defendants are: • younger, male, disproportionately members of minority groups, come from broken homes, less educated, unemployed, single

  7. Initial Appearance • The police must bring an arrested person before a judge “without unnecessary delay”—typically 48 hours • An initial appearance is a defendant’s first encounter with the courts and judicial process • judge advises defendant of rights • typically last a few minutes • for minor crimes, defendants may plead guilty and receive immediate sentence

  8. Initial Appearance • For major crimes, the judge will set bail, schedule next court appearance and appoint a counsel if the defendant is an indigent Bail • Bail is a guarantee that in return for being released from jail, the accused will return to court as needed

  9. Bail • procedures vary depending on seriousness of crime • for minor offenses bail may be posted at the police station (which often has a fixed bail schedule) • for felony or serious misdemeanors the court must set a bond amount • Once amount is set there are four ways to post a bond

  10. Bail • Bond procedure include: • provide cash bond • provide property bond (equity of twice the face amount of bond) • bail bondsman – which posts the bond for the defendant and charges a nonrefundable fee (often 10% of face value of bond) • personal recognizance – judge may release defendant from jail without monetary bail

  11. Bail • The poor often wait in jail, while the rich are able to post bond • studies show that defendants held in jail without bon are more likely to be convicted, and more likely to be sentenced to prison • In serious cases there is a lot of discretion in setting the bail amount • a few defendants are held over without bail

  12. Bail • Over 700,000 people are held in jail (v. prison) • Debate is the goal of bail to: • 1) ensure the appearance of the defendant, or 2) to protect the public • preventive detention emphasizes the public protection aspect and allows judges to hold over those accused of dangerous crimes without bail

  13. Prosecution • Prosecution is found at all major governmental levels: national, state, county and local • may be called U.S. Attorneys, state attorneys general, prosecutor, district attorney, state’s attorney, city attorney • Prosecutors have broad discretion – prosecutors decide which cases to pursue

  14. Filing Charges • The sixth amendment requires the defendant to be given information about the charges against them • a charging document includes the name of the person charged, brief description of how and where the offense was committed and the statute allegedly violated

  15. Filing Charges • Three major types of charging documents: • complaint – is supported by oath or affirmation of an arresting officer, used in misdemeanor or city ordinance violations • information – identical to complaint but signed by prosecutor • indictment – issued by a grand jury (citizens)

  16. Filing Charges • There is considerable discretion in the prosecutor’s decision to follow an arrest with a charge. • the prosecutor controls the “doors to the courthouse” • very little oversight—other than prosecutors are typically elected officials • some police consider every decision not to charge as a repudiation of their policing

  17. Preliminary Hearing • A preliminary hearing is the first time a criminal case is reviewed by someone other than a law enforcement official • an arrested person is entitled to a timely hearing before a neutral judge to determine probable cause for the detention • protects the innocent and provides the defendant with an overview of the case against him • does not require the establishment of guilt—only probable cause

  18. Grand Juries • Grand juries are different from trial juries—they determine probable cause • Two primary functions: • determine whether there is probable cause the defendant committed the crime • protect the public from overzealous prosecutors • issue a true bill if the case continues • grand jury use varies but is used mostly for felonies and capital crimes

  19. Grand Juries • size of the grand jury varies 6 – 23 • normally selected in a manner similar to trial juries • impaneled for a set time and meet periodically • legal protections of criminal court do not apply—the work is done in secret, plurality vote, no right to an attorney • prosecutors dominate process

  20. Exclusionary Rules • many factors affect how the police arrest and prosecutors charge those accused of committing crimes • The Bill of Rights and Supreme Court decisions • Exclusionary Rule – prohibits the prosecutor from using illegally obtained evidence during a trial

  21. Exclusionary Rules • There are three distinct exclusionary rules: • identification of suspects – defendant’s have the right to be assisted by counsel during a police lineup • confessions – no physical or psychological coercion, Miranda rights inform a suspect of their legal guarantees • searches – the gathering of physical evidence must follow certain rules and be truthful and relevant

  22. Exclusionary Rules • Lawyers ask for evidence to be excluded through pretrial motions • pretrial motions are a request to suppress evidence that was illegally obtained • empirical studies show that despite great public concern over the exclusionary rule—relatively few pretrial motions to suppress evidence are actually filed

  23. Exclusionary Rules • Debate centers on whether convictions lost, and the guilty let go because of the suppressed evidence. • it is difficult to resolve this debate because it hard to determine precisely why cases are dropped • we do know that far more cases are dropped because of a lack of evidence or witness problems than are dropped because the prosecutor cannot use illegally obtained evidence.

  24. Case Attrition • The exercise of discretion (by police, prosecutors, judges, etc.) causes many cases to be dropped • out of 100 felony arrests only 55 survive to trial stage • once a case reaches felony court is highly likely to end in a guilty plea or trial verdict of guilty • there are variations across courts in case attrition rates

  25. Why Attrition Occurs • Legal Judgments – at every stage a decision is made about whether there is sufficient legal evidence to move a case forward • Policy Priorities – prosecutors are simply not interested in pursuing some cases (where the punishment may have already occurred), yet very aggressive in pursuing others • Substantive Assessments – some cases are dropped because the officials decide prosecution would serve no useful purpose

  26. Criminal Justice Wedding Cake • Not all cases should be treated or counted the same way • Samuel Walker suggests using a wedding cake as a metaphor—with each layer representing a different type of case but with consistency in each layer • Walker observes that criminal justice officials handle the various layers of the cake very differently

  27. Celebrated Cases • at the top of the wedding cake • dominate the news headlines, but are atypical of most cases • the judicial process is carefully followed • these cases are likely to go to a full jury trial • have considerable impact on the public perception (too much?)

  28. Serious and Lesser Felonies • The second and third layers of the cake are felony cases • Differentiation between the two levels is based on: 1) the seriousness of the crime, 2) the criminal record of the suspect, 3) relationship between the victim and the offender • serious felonies are carefully handled and lesser felonies are dispensed of routinely and quickly

  29. Misdemeanors • misdemeanors far outnumber all other types of cases • half of the misdemeanor cases represent “public order” offenses, fewer than a third represent crimes against persons or property • processed very differently from felonies: routine handling, defendants are arraigned en masse, guilt is rarely contested, punishment is not severe

  30. Conclusion • America’s courts process millions of criminal cases every year—most are routine • Crime rates continue to be high profile and a frequent subject of political campaigns • Crime is persistent (if dropping) despite considerable effort and expenditures • Discretion occurs at every stage of the criminal justice process

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