Chapter 1

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AN OVERVIEW OF THE AMERICAN

LEGAL SYSTEM

Branches of Government

Legislative

Executive

Judicial

Levels of Government

Local

State

Federal

3 Primary Components

Police

Courts

Corrections

3 Levels of Each Component

Local

State

Federal

Law Enforcement

Activity governed by a criminal code

Includes arrests, investigations, traffic tickets, etc.

Order Maintenance

Governed by Sir Robert Peel’s Nine Principles of Policing

Quality of life issues

Includes controlling crowds, gatherings, traffic

Public Service

Catchall category

Includes animals, neighborhood issues, abandoned vehicles, other public needs

Largest portion of police responsibility

Largest portion of police expenditures

12,766 local departments

Municipal Police Departments

Sheriffs’ Departments

Tremendous variation in department size

Smallest portion of police responsibility

49 state police agencies

Responsibilities

Highway Patrol

State Law Violations

Special Jurisdiction

Special Policing Issues

Federal Bureau of Investigation

Immigration and Customs Enforcement

Secret Service

Drug Enforcement Administration

Many others

Narrow Jurisdictions

Established by Congress or the President

Crime Investigation

Arrest Law Violators

Gatekeeping

Court Transport

Court Security

Tremendous variation among jurisdictions

Functions

Protect society from criminal offenders

Dispute resolution

Levels

Local

State

Federal

Responsibilities

Probation and Parole

Community Corrections Programs

Institutional Corrections

Theories of Criminal Sentencing

Retribution

Rehabilitation

Deterrence

Incapacitation

Reintegration

Local

City and County Jails

Short-term housing

State

Largest portion of corrections system

87.5% of prison population

Federal

U.S. Bureau of Prisons

Federal Probation

Legislative Branch

Congress

Created by Article 1

Authority includes taxation, court creation, war declaration

Executive Branch

The President

Created by Article 2

Authority includes enforcement of laws, acting as commander-in-chief, executive office appointments

Judiciary Branch

The Supreme Court

Created by Article 3

Power of judicial review

Separation of powers between the state and federal governments

10 th

Amendment

Any power not given to the federal government

Reserved to the states or the people

Comity: when one government defers to the other’s authority

A court’s legal authority to decide a case

Subject Matter Jurisdiction

Civil law jurisdiction

Criminal law jurisdiction

Other special jurisdiction

Juvenile law

Probate law

Family law

Courts of Limited Jurisdiction

Lack the power to hear a full range of cases

Specialized jurisdiction

Inferior courts

Courts of General Jurisdiction

Have the power to hear a full range of cases

Adhere to formal court procedures

Judges must be licensed attorneys

Hear appeals from inferior courts

Courts of Original Jurisdiction

Court that first hears the case

May be of limited or general jurisdiction

Courts of first instance

Courts of Appellate Jurisdiction

Hear appeals from courts of original jurisdiction

Appeals are based upon errors of law

Courts of intermediate appellate jurisdiction

Courts of last resort

State Supreme Courts

U.S. Supreme Court

Law

Provides relief through damages

Civil and criminal law

Equity

Used when there is no remedy available through the law

Provides relief through injunctions

Form of justice used in the U.S.

Two parties to the dispute

Opposing one another

One will win and one will lose

Zero-sum game

Contrast with inquisitional justice

Government gathers evidence of defendant’s guilt

Fewer people charged with crimes

Assumption of defendant’s guilt

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