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Origins of American Criminal Law

In 1492, Christopher Columbus discovered America. Since that time, Europeans started to establish colonies in America, and English common laws were developed and regulated in North America.

During late 18th century, European laws started to address crimes specifically. The British government created a system which is known as common law. It covers both criminal and civil matters. American judicial branch of government and laws were borrowed from English traditions. The U.S. common laws define crimes and severity of any offense. Criminal cases brought before court have three categories such as felonies, misdemeanors, and treason. Misdemeanor cases are less offensive and settled with forfeiture of property or fines and sometimes punishable with a jail sentence of less than a year. On the other hand, felonies are serious crimes in the American law system that result in harsher penalties. Such crimes include drug sales, assault cases, various white collar crimes, and some harmful activities to people or society. Some specific felony crimes such as homicide may cause death penalties. Treason is defined as the violent act towards own country. Unusually, these crimes consist of selling government secret information to a hostile country.

Fifth Amendment

The Fifth Amendment of the United States Constitution relates to the protection of person or property. It was important to include the amendment in the Constitution because it enumerates certain basic and personal liberties. Specifically the Fifth Amendment represents five distinctive liberties. According to the amendment, the offender has rights to be charged by an impartial jury before being asked for a federal criminal offense. The amendment gives right to be free from multiple punishments or prosecutions for a single criminal offense. The Due Process of Law provides the right to have personal liberties. Also, the amendment helps the society to get benefits from state if the private property is taken for public use. The owner of the property receives compensation from the government in such cases. The provisions of the Fifth Amendment depend on the actions of federal government.

Federal Government versus State Government

Specific powers are granted to the state and federal government in order to fulfill the criminal laws. Federal and state laws safeguard the citizens of the United States. Federal crimes can be gun licensing violations, drug trafficking, mail fraud, identity theft, etc. In such cases, the case goes to the United States Attorney. If there is a conviction, then the U.S. Attorney has the power to sentence the offender by following the federal guidelines. In such trial, offenders have to serve their sentence in federal prison.

In case of state crimes, decisions are often taken by district or state attorney. State laws may differ in various states. Most crimes committed in state are fallen under the responsibility of state department. State department of law enforcement takes care of various state crimes such as burglary, homicide, drug trafficking, domestic violence, weapon offense, etc. In some specific situations, if the crime crosses state lines, then such situations are handled by federal jurisdiction.

Goals of Criminal Justice System

The American criminal justice system has four main goals. They are law enforcement, judiciary, prosecution, and corrections.

Law Enforcement

Law enforcement helps to maintain peace in the society. It is one of the most visible and readily accessible components of justice system. In the United States, law enforcement department is divided into federal, state, and local. For instance, Federal Bureau of Investigation (FBI) helps to maintain federal and local law enforcement departments similarly to the way New York City Police Department (NYPD) helps to maintain local law enforcement.

Judiciary

Judiciary looks after court proceedings. In this system, judge works as a facet of impartial and fair justice. He ensures whether the laws are followed at all stages or not. In judiciary system, judge makes the final decision. Thus, the judiciary system must uphold the law.

Prosecution

Prosecution deals with the treatment of suspected criminals after they have caught by law enforcement. During this process, court sets a date. In the specific date, the suspect is brought to the trial where he or she must answer for the alleged crimes. At the end of trial, the judge impartially takes his decision.

Corrections

Correction is the fourth component, which include parole, imprisonment, house arrest, and probation. The main goals of correction are deterrence, retribution, rehabilitation, and incapacitation.

All of these four goals have some similarities and differences. These four goals are connected with each other. The central idea of all goals is to maintain peace in the society.

However, all the goals are have different priorities. For instance, law enforcement helps to maintain orders in the society, but judiciary, prosecution, and corrections help to identify and punish the responsible person behind the crime.

In both judiciary and prosecution systems, the final decision is taken by the judge. Both of the goals are interconnected with each other. The court assigns a day for hearing and in this specific date, the suspect must answer the questions of prosecutor. Thus, both judiciary and prosecution are related to each other.

Police Power

The state and the Constitution provide law enforcement department with special powers. These powers are adopted, made and enforced for the protection and preservation of the society, public health, moral, justice, safety, welfare, and security.

Although the police power is essential and fundamental, it still has some limitations. These limitations help the society to protect them from injustice. Police force can apply their power only to protect or save people. They cannot take violent actions to ruin liberty, health and safety of the society. Thus, they should be morally and physically responsible for all their actions.

From above discussion, one can come to a conclusion that criminal laws help the society to maintain peace, safety, and liberty. In the United States, federal and state governments work together to ensure law enforcement in the society. Moreover, the criminal justice system has some specific goals which help to sustain integrity in the society.

About the author: Susan Carter
 works as a writer on the reliable and trusted custom research paper writing company that delivers quality papers to students who need help. These writers are at your hand with their inspired traits just to help you.
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