A fundamental concept of criminal justice in the United States is the criminal justice system is an
adversarial system. We achieve justice when a talented adversary (lawyer) is able to convince a judge or
jury that his or her perspective is the correct one.
This chapter focuses on two issues central to the understanding this adversarial system. First, the text
describes the roles and responsibilities of the “professional” members of the courtroom work group and the
“outsiders” to this group. Second, the trial process is described in detail.
What is the primary responsibility of the judge? (To ensure that justice prevails)
What is the responsibility of the prosecuting attorney? (Represents the people)
What is the responsibility of the defense attorney? (Represents the accused)
The Adjudication Process
The criminal trial is a complex event involving many participants. A lot of what goes into a trial happens
behind the scenes.
Most of public perception of how trials work is influenced by the media. In reality, many such
representations are complete fiction.
The concept is a “battle” between the state and a legal “champion” of the accused.
One of the first decisions to be made when a person is arrested for a felony is which court has jurisdiction.
The general guidelines for determining jurisdiction have to do with which laws were violated and the
geographic location of the crime. If the violation is of both state and federal court, the defendant may be
tried in both. This is not a violation of the Fifth Amendment prohibiting double jeopardy since the violation of
both state and federal law are considered different offenses. Typically, however, most defendant are not
tried in both courts.
Municiple or County Law•Courts of Limited Jurisdiction – only deal with misdemeanor, petty offenses, and
StateLimited Jurisdiction – if crime is a misdemeanor. Original Jurisdiction if crime is a felony
FederalFederal Magistrate – if crime is a misdemeanor. Federal District Court – if crime is a felony Pretrial Proceedings
Arrest, Initial Appearance, Arraignment
Motion for Discovery Disclosure
A request by the defense counsel that the prosecutor turn over all relevant evidence,
including the list of witnesses, that the prosecution might use in the trial.
Prosecutor may not withhold any evidence. Can be thrown out.
Court decides in advance
Change of Venue
When case gets a lot of media attention, my client cannot get a fair trial b/c we cannot get an impartial jury.
I need more time. Cannot do within the speedy trial time allotted.
Bill of Particulars
Severance of Charges or Defendants
If multiple defendants, motion to split trials into one per defendant
Release of the defendant prior to trial.
Bail exemplifies the American CJ assumption that defendants will be treated as if they are innocent until
they are proven guilty. Bail has its root in English history. Magistrates used to place prisoners with private parties who would
guarantee that they would deliver the accused to court when it was time for trial. The parties were required
to sign a bon, called a private surety, stating that if they failed to deliver the prisoner they would forfeit a
specified sum of money. Today we use bail bonds agents
Bail Bonds Agent
An agent of a private commercial business that has contracted with the court to act as a guarantor of a
Only the US and the Philippines use a commercial, forprofit business independent of the judicial system to
secure bail for a defendant.
Explain how the system works. Bail jumpers and bounty hunters.
Alternatives to Cash Bond
Release on Recognizance (ROR)
Release of the accused based on the defendants unsecured promise to appear at trial.
Defendant signs a promissory note agreeing to pay the court if they fail to appear at trial.
A promise to appear. Usually used in minor or traffic offenses. A promise to appear on a ticket, for example.
Defendant is released from custody of he agrees to courtordered terms and restrictions, such as alcohol
treatment, anger management classes, etc.
Pros and Cons of Bail
50% released within 24 hours of arrest.
28% released one week after arrest.
10% incarcerated one month after their arrest.
Competency to Stand Trial The concept that a defendant comprehends the charges against him or her and is able to assist his/her
attorney with the defense.
A ruling of incompetency to stand trial is a temporary one. Once the defendant is well enough, the trial will
This differs from a plea of innocent by reason of insanity. Such a plea generally results in a number of
psychiatric examinations. Recall that insanity is determined by a jury, not a medical doctor in a criminal trial
The negotiation between defendant and prosecutor for a plea of guilty for which in return the defendant will
receive some benefit such as reduction of charges or dismissal of some charges.
Most offenses are settled by plea bargains, whereas a small percentage of defendants are convicted by
Pros and Cons of Plea Bargains:
Time and Cost Savings
Goes Against Our Desire for Just Desserts
Preparation for Trial
The calendar on which court cases are scheduled for trial.
Statute of Limitations
Legal Limits regarding the length of time between the discovery of a crime and the arrest of the defendant.
Roughly 18 monthsMisdemeanor
No statute of limitations Murder, sex assault of minor. 6 Amendment and Speedy Trial
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 witnesses against him; to have compulsory process for obtaining witnesses in his favor,
and to have the Assistance of Counsel for his defense
Speedy Trial Act of 1974
Required a specific deadline between arrest and trial in federal courts. Barring delays created by the
defendant and except for a few welldefined situations, the court ruled that a defendant must be brought to
trial within 100 days of arrests or the charges could be dismissed.
Speedy trial refers to the time between arrest and trial.
Defendant can waive speedy trial. If attorney needs more time.
Courtroom Work Group
Professional courtroom actors, including judges, prosecuting and defense lawyers, public defenders, and
those others who earn a living serving the court.
Professionals: paid to be there, court reporters, bailiffs, etc.
Elected or appointed to preside over a court of law
Authorized to hear cases and conduct trials
Role of the Judge
Ultimate authority on matters of
Evidence Decorum: may hold someone in contempt
Usually when people think about the criminal trial the actor that com