If a plea bargain is reached before the trial, often the trial will not continue. The suspect will be sentenced and then continue to incarceration. Plea-bargaining is a legal tool, which keep the courts from becoming too clogged (Champion 208). This ends the Pre-Trial phase of the criminal court system.
Next in the process is the trial itself. Most people who enjoy courtroom dramas will recognize this phase of the process. Many trials are pleaded out, which means the main characters in the process are the prosecutor, the defense counsel, and the judge. When a case does go to trial, juries are selected, and are generally composed of 6 or 12 peers, chosen with equal input and approval by both the prosecutor and the defense (Samaha 329). The prosecutor, usually working for the county or state, offers their evidence against the suspect, while the defense counsel presents evidence meant to clear his client of wrongdoing. The judge (and jury) attempt to decide which side is telling the truth, and how to punish the suspect. One important aspect of the trial is that the defendant is always presumed innocent until proven guilty (Samaha 334). The trial moves through several phases.
The trial begins with opening statements from both attorneys. They then offer the main facts to the jury, giving them evidence and attempting to sway them to their side. After all the evidence is presented, they make their closing arguments. Usually, the state presents its closing argument last. If there is a jury, the trial then goes to the jury to decide, after the judge gives them his instructions (Samaha 338). If there is no jury, the judge decides whether the suspect is guilty or innocent, and what price they will pay for their crime. There are many alternatives to sentencing. There is also community service, suspended sentences, and sometimes the suspect is committed to a mental or addiction institution for treatment. Sentencing and serving the sentence is the "Post-Trial" part of the process (Samaha 363). After sentencing, the criminal goes to jail, serves time, and is released on parole, or, for lesser crimes might do community service, ending the process (Samaha 363).
In conclusion, as demonstrated in this essay, the system of government is one of balance, and it ensures the goals of the forefathers: that the control of the government remains under the control of the people of America by way of their elected officials. That the people of the United States shall benefit from the due process of law; that is, the legal court systems established that cause the courts, prosecutors, defense lawyers, and, if necessary, a jury of one's peers, to adhere to the rules of law. Alleged criminals must be treated in accordance with the rights and guarantees under the Constitution of the United States. While this system might not always seem like the best system to those of us on the outside, as observers of justice applied; certainly should we find ourselves or one of our loved ones on the other side of the system, and innocent, we would be grateful for the many rigors and guarantees afforded us in the opportunity to legally prove our innocence.
While ours is not a perfect system, is certainly a system that has endured longer than any other Constitutional government in history. Our basic focus on human rights, and the rights of our citizens as expressed in the Constitution is what draws the millions of applications from people of foreign countries whose own rights pale in comparison to ours; and who seek for their families and their selves a better life in a country that respects their human and legal rights. This is what our Constitution does.
It is perhaps the forefathers whom we have to thank for our system, but it is the people have worked to preserve it since that time: police officers, judges, senators, representatives, and the individual citizens who oversee the rights of the Constitution remain in tact with careful oversight, discussion, and debate. We are the people.
Champion, Dean J. Dictionary of American Criminal Justice: Key Terms and Major
Supreme Court Cases, Fitzroy Dearborn Publishing, Chicago, Il, 1998.
Clymer, Steven. Are Police Free to Disregard Miranda? The Yale Law Journal,