The American Legal system has been a strong order of justice since our forefathers created it when America was being born. Since there are so many parts and processes of the justice system, it has been divided into different agencies and departments, to ensure that system works in a manner that is efficient as possible. Like any other country in the world, the Unites States has crime and has a way of defending and regulating its control with police, courts, and a corrections system. Although the American Legal System does not work as well as we would like, it seems as if the control of 295 million citizens is doing well. We have police, with firearms, patrolling our streets to answer our calls of distress 24-hours a day, courts to handle each and every infraction of serious crimes, and a corrections system to punish offenders or try to rehabilitate them for release back to society.
The first order of the American justice System starts in the community with the police agencies that govern the people of the country. Local cops, state police, highway patrol, the FBI, the ATF, and the U.S. Marshals, are all different policing agencies that help to control life in society and keep it sound. The police are here to regulate all that is around us, from enforcing traffic rules, answering calls for assistance, probe suspicious circumstances, maintain a police presence in the community, solving domestic disputes and crimes, and at the most to protect and serve the community. Police have a variety of jobs that help to better the place we live. Through collaboration with other departments, today the police are working to find what causes crime and what factors we can use to prevent it. Policing is a limited business that has many restrictions to it as well. Before the police can catch a criminal, they have to have sufficient evidence or probable cause, which a crime has been committed or will be committed. Probable cause to make an arrest could be for example, an officer making a traffic stop and seeing a handgun in the backseat of the car, or perhaps a search warrant, issued by a judge, permitting agents to invade a suspected drug dealers house. Without sufficient probable cause or evidence it is against the law for any police agency to inflict charges upon any one person. The Supreme Court case, Mapp v. Ohio (1961), dealt with establishing the principle that illegally obtained evidence cannot be used against a person in any case, meaning that evidence is void without probable cause or a warrant. Officers entered Mapp s home to apprehend a suspect but seized evidence that had nothing to do with the specific case. Police gather intelligence through surveillance operations, complaints or tips from the community, and even suspicious behavior. Police only involve their work with people if they believe that person can help them in gathering information about, and or solving crimes. The Police in our society have a hard job. The job of keeping hundreds of millions of Americans safe, sound and assured that there is a force that is protection us. This force is the first step in the justice system, the police are seen regularly in their cars or not at all, like the FBI, who work undercover, but they enforce the social problems of today and provide the courts information to process crimes in the justice system.
The next step in the American legal system is the courts. The Constitution States in the Sixth Amendment: In all criminal prosecutions, the accused shall enjoy the right to a speedy and public trial, by an impartial jury of the State and district wherein the crime shall have been committed, which district shall have been previously ascertained by law, and to be informed of the nature and cause of the accusation; to be confronted with the witness against him; to have compulsory process for obtaining witness in his favor, and to have the assistance of counsel for his defense. Each town, county, state and even the Federal Government have courts to deal with the large amount of crime and infractions of the law we have everyday. Our circuit, county courts deal with the local, state, and federal problems immediately, while the appellate courts of each branch take the cases that already been decided upon, but will be tried again. Once someone is arrested they are held to determine if they should stay in custody or are released on bail to stand trial at a later time. That person has the right to a defense by a lawyer of his/her choice or they will be appointed one. The judge and the prosecuting attorney decide what the charges should be and what penalties the defendant can receive. One specific case that has been a catalyst in the advancement of our Constitutional rights is Miranda v. Arizona (1966) which gave people certain rights when they are arrested. Ernesto Miranda was arrested but he was interrogated under the notion that he was not aware he was entitled to legal representation. This case informed suspects of their constitutional rights to silence, counsel, and protection against self-incrimination, which is insured by the Fifth Amendment to the Constitution. When someone is to stand trial for a charge, the decision to punish is determined by a jury of peers. The jury usually consists of random citizens that are not associated with the defendant or case. This is to ensure that it is a fair trial and there are no discriminations. Preliminary hearings are set to make sure that there is sufficient evidence to support the charge on the individual. The case, Batson v. Kentucky (1986), held that prosecutors may not exclude members of one race from a jury because they believe they may favor a member of their own race. There are many aspects of the court system to ensure that the defendant receives a fair trial such as the bill of rights and the intricate procedures that follow.
The last step in the American Justice System is the Department of Corrections. If one is convicted and sentenced, that person must be place in the required facility to punish or rehabilitate in some cases. Mandatory sentencing laws have been added to many state s statues to possibly have a better effect on stopping individual crimes dealing with firearms and violence. Punishments come various in severity, from probation, in which one s behavior and progress is watched , to the death penalty, in which a prisoner is executed for his crimes. Punishments decided by the courts are determined by the severity and past history, especially criminal, of that individual. We have certain kinds of correctional facilities for each prisoner, such as jail, which holds people with sentences for less than one year, or state and federal prisons to hold for longer than one year and up to a life sentence. Prisoners have limited rights and are denied the right of freedom through due process of the law and conviction. But prisoners do have some rights, like freedom from cruel and unusual punishment, medical treatment, mail, freedom of speech and religious practices, access to courts and counsel, and the due process for criminal proceedings. Some states today still enforce the death penalty for committing murder in the first degree. States in the South like Florida, Alabama, Georgia, California and almost ten others. There has been much controversy on the death penalty and its deterrent effectiveness over the years. Some may argue that the death penalty is legalized murder and some believe it to deter others from homicide. Most states have abolished the death penalty statue from their legislature. Fear that the innocent will be executed in a mistrial, most of the states that have a death penalty statue contain several, and intricate, appellate proceedings that enable the convicted to appeal the death decision and seek acquittal. The Supreme Court has dealt with much controversy and debate on weather the death penalty is constitutional or not. It was considered a violation of the Eight Amendment since execution was rare and therefore an unusual punishment. The Supreme Court case, Fuman v. Georgia (1972), illustrates a opposition to the penalty by overturning the death penalty statues as they were then applied for being in violation of the Eight Amendment prohibition of cruel and unusual punishment. The decision was for the states to have the ability to write their own death penalty or life sentence statues.
Some citizens agree that the justice system does not work as fast and proper as it should. But limitations and the Constitutional rights that we have, make it a lengthy process to ensure that fairness is given to us all. From policing, to the courts, to corrections, there are many small steps and procedures that we amend and change every week, therefore making the justice system more adaptable to our society. As time goes on, and things change, or legal system and laws will change too. The United States of America is a democratic republic, for the people by the people. And it is us, who in the future will determine what changes we must take in order to make this country a better place to live.