Criminal Justice System Principles

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The Principle of Legality

The principal of legality means that no one can be convicted of a crime if there is not already a law written defining the specific act as criminal. Although many of the core crimes committed in the United States such as murder, arson, theft, or rape have laws in place to protect its citizens, with the increased availability and use of technology, there are new crimes emerging for which no laws previously existed. Cybercrime was not even a term that existed fifty years ago, so it would have been impossible to have created laws protecting citizens for crimes such as these.

From a moral standpoint it seems that if someone knowingly does something that harms another, even if the act has not been deemed illegal, that person should be held accountable. However, the criminal justice system does not exist to anticipate and punish new crimes. The criminal justice system is in place to render justice and our justice system can never be given the power to convict a person based on what is considered moral over the written law. If a criminal finds a way to do something malicious without breaking the law, it is up to the process of the United States government to propose and pass a law to convict future perpetrators of the same crime.

Most of the laws in the United States are in place to maintain order and the safety of its citizens. Depending on the severity of the crime, the consequences vary dramatically. For example, running a red light will result in a fine, running a red light and hitting another vehicle will result in a fine and financial retribution to the other vehicle owner, running a red light and hitting a pedestrian will cause the police to become involved and criminal charges, such as involuntary manslaughter, could be imposed.

Theories of Criminal Punishment

When someone commits a crime that requires a punishment, the theory of criminal punishment, which considers the purpose of criminal punishment, there are two main classifications that have endured through the centuries (Samaha, 2017). Although the two groups seem as if they follow the same type of thinking, it is the idea behind the incarceration that differs. Retributionists seek a vengeful punishment to the offender. They feel is a person knowingly commits a severe crime like murder or rape, the owe it to society to receive a harsh prison sentence and that they should be hated by society. Although this seems extreme, there is a humane side to this school of thought in that culpability is considered. People who have accidents, such as motor vehicle deaths, are not on the retributionist radar for revenge. They are mainly interested in punishing those who commit crimes with the intent of doing so. Preventionists, on the other hand, think punishment should only be inflicted when necessary to promote the greater good of the rest of the community or to prevent future offenses, Preventionists would rather attempt to rehabilitate the offender by offering alternatives to jail time such as rehabilitation, divergence programs, work release programs, and community services. Deterrence methods such as suspended sentences or parole are also an alternative for preventionists. If a crime is severe or that rehabilitation efforts have not been effective, then preventionists believe a person should be incapacitated through incarceration, but for the good of the community and not as a method of revenge.

My Opinion

I believe that people who commit crime should be held accountable and receive consequences. Retribution has proved over the years to serve no real purpose in preventing criminals from reoffending after being released. In prisons who offer appropriate rehabilitation programs, particularly education, show the lowest rates of recidivism. Inmates who receive college degrees in prison are the least likely to reoffend, while those who receive no type of rehabilitation are likely to be re-arrested within a year of release. This is the reason I think prevention is the correct way of thinking about our justice system. Rather than having a revolving door on a prison, we should teach the inmates the skills to be a productive member of society upon release. Also, for younger prisoners who commit a first offense, other methods should be employed before locking them up. A first-time offender will fall prey to the prisoner subculture and may end up being a more educated criminal upon release from prison.

Presumption of Innocence

Any person who commits a crime in the United States is presumed innocent until proven guilty. Criminal investigators have been known to use surveillance tapes from businesses to try and piece together crimes in the past. Later, social media profiles were added to the list of things that were examined to piece together information about a suspect or victim. Forensic scientists examine the computers of suspects. With the evolution of cell phones that record video, every person can catch anything, including a crime, on video. The video taken by bystanders should be treated as any other piece of evidence that is gathered by detectives. It should be examined, authenticated that is was not altered and entered into evidence. The suspect will still arrive at trial with the presumption of innocence. The video recordings may make the suspects case unwinnable because it is like being caught red-handed, but if treated as evidence the same as a strand of hair or recovered weapon would be handled, then it is perfectly acceptable.


Samaha, J. (2017). Criminal Law (12 ed.). Boston, MA: Cengage Learning. ISBN- 10: 1-305-57738-8 or ISBN- 13: 978-1-305-57738-1

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Criminal Justice System Principles. (2019, Feb 20). Retrieved July 17, 2024 , from

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