Criminal Cases


Main idea

Criminal cases follow a legal procedure from arrest to the verdict and sentencing.

Key Terms crime, arraignment, testimony, cross-examine, acquittal, hung jury

Reading Strategy

Analyzing Information Outline the procedures that take place In a criminal case after an arrest is made, using a graphic organizer similar to the one below.

in Crimiriril Crises

Read to Learn

• What are the general types of criminal cases? ■ What procedures do criminal cases follow?

Types of Cases

In criminal law eases the government charges someone with a crime and is always the prosecution the party who starts the legal proceedings against another party for a violation of the law. The person accused of the crime is the defendant. A crimc is an act that breaks a federal or state criminal law and causes harm to people or society in general. Crimes are defined in each state's written criminal laws, called the penal code. A state's penal code also spells out the punishments that go with each crime. Penal codes establish classifications, or degrees of seriousness, for certain crimes to set appropriate penalties. In general, the more serious the crime, the harsher the punishment will be.

In Chapter 15 we divided crimes into two main groups serious law violations called felonies and minor violations called misdemeanors. Whereas persons convicted of misdemeanors may be fined or sentenced to one year or less in jail, persons convicted of felonies could be imprisoned for one year or more. In the case of murder, the punishment could be death. Felonies cam in turn, be classified in terms of who or what was harmed when a crime was committed.

r^J\maricans in Action

T^*** The Bill of Rights established that persons accused of committing a crime have the right to be represented by lawyers. The Supreme Court has interpreted that right to mean that if a defendant cannot afford a lawyer, the court will appoint one to represent him or her. Court-appointed attorneys are called public defenders. Connecticut's Division of Public Defender Services seeks to dispel some myths about public defenders. Public defenders are not inexperienced, rather they are skilled attorneys who specialize In criminal law and practice their profession every day in the courtroom by representing their clients.

A judge delivers a verdict.

368 Chapter 16 Civil


U.S. Regional Crime Rates in 2000


2 3,500

g 3,000

y 1,000

500 0

Violent Crime Property Crimn










Analyzing Grapbs



This graph compares crime rates in the WestT Midwest, Northeast, and South. Which section of the country had the highest violent crime rates in 2000? Which had the highest property crime rates?

Penalties for Crimes

People who are accused and convicted of crimcs arc usually punished by fines and/or imprisonment* depending on the nature and severity of the crime. Criminal penalties serve several functions. They provide punishment so that a criminal pays for an offense against a victim or society. They help protect society by keeping dangerous criminals confined in prison, in this way, lawbreakers cannot continue to commit crimcs and harm others. Criminal penalties can also keep other people from committing che same crimcs by serving as warnings or examples to deter others. Finally, criminal penalties are intended to help prepare lawbreakers for reentering society after their prison terms have ended. Through counseling, education, and vocational training, some prisons help inmates learn skills that will help them lead productive lives after prison.

Some prisoners may be eligible for parole after serving part of their sentences. This means that a parole board reviews a request for parole and decides whether or not to grant a prisoner early release from prison. If parole is granted, the person must report to a parole officer until the sentence has expired.

Critics of the parole system claim that many sentences end up much shorter than intended because of it. In answer to this criticism, some states have established mandatory sentencing, which means that judges must impose whatever sentence the law directs. Opponents of mandatory sentencing, though, claim that in some cases, the judge must impose harsher sentences than the circumstances of the case justify. Other systems of sentencing include indeterminate sentences, in wliich a judge gives a minimum and maximum sentence. A set range of sentences applies to each kind of crime. Under

Chapter 16 Civil and Criminal Law 3G9

any system, similar crimes should receive similar punishments, but judges have some leeway in considering the unique circumstances of each individual case.

Types of Felonies

The crimes that Americans tend to fear most are crimes against people. These are violent or potentially violent crimes such as murder, manslaughter (the accidental killing of a person), assault (physical injury or threat of injury), rape, and kidnapping.

Crimes against property arc the most common types of crime. Burglary> robbery, and theft are all forms of larceny, the taking of property unlawfully. Vandalism (the deliberate destruction of property) and


fraud (taking property by dishonest means or misrepresentation) are other common crimes against property.

Some crimes, such as unauthorized gambling or the use of illegal drugs, are considered victimless crimes or crimes against morality bccausc there is no victim to bring a complaint. Because of this, laws regarding these crimes are very hard to enforce. Although some people argue that these acts should not be considered crimes because there are no victims, victimless crimes can in fact harm others. For instance, people frequently steal to get money to purchase illegal drugs, and victimless crimes could be committed by criminal gangs who commit otiier violent crimes against society.

Describing What does it mean if a prisoner is granted parole?

What Happens in a Criminal Case?

The criminal justice system is the system of state and federal courts, judges, lawyers, police, and prisons that have the responsibility for enforcing criminal law. As you will learn in Section 3 of this chapter, chcrc is a separate juvenile justice system with special rules and procedures for handling cases dealing with young people, called juveniles, who in most states are people under the age of 18.

Criminal cases follow several steps. At each step defendants are entitled to the protections of due process guaranteed in the Bill of Rights. Criminal cases begin when police and other law enforcement: officers arrest a person on suspicion of having committed a crime.

"ifV &ti id /f* ifTjiW) JV Ni ine infvnnsj thcM ef'fbtir ngfai ii'ir-n <b<t tvw nrralci."


Officers make arrests if they have witnessed a suspected crime, if a citizen has made a complaint or report of a crime, or if

Political Cartoons

Analyzing Visuals Under the Miranda ruling of 1966, police officers must inform suspected criminals of their rights. In what ways does the Miranda ruling help protect the United States Constitution?

"ifV &ti id /f* ifTjiW) JV Ni ine infvnnsj thcM ef'fbtir ngfai ii'ir-n <b<t tvw nrralci."

mH •rr'rrs 1'frdvmplIrrATtl mm^f inj Imr UAnxMr—iUa »TUiivcl 0.\I^IkiJMj^i^Lil-TH»)? W4(

370 Chapter 16 Civil and Criminal Law

~l H r.HM v-.-.iV.H- 1» I ::■■ IW..R HH-i U-i mi <11 <i i:«-n««-I«««i:::m. AI -i li> .-•-.-.■'■^ -III. I . i ■■

Procedure in a Criminal Case

'.is) Police arrest and book suspect

ftp) Suspect appears before a judgo

@ Ball Is set

Indictment Grand Jury (or Judge) hears evidence and formally charges the suspect with the crime

Arraignment |

Defendant @

pleads not guilty

Defendant plearte guHty and accepts a plea bargain

Defendant @

pleads not guilty

@ Trial date is set

Defendant plearte guHty and accepts a plea bargain a judge has issued an arrest warrant. When the arrest is made* the officers will read the suspect his or her rights. As you recall from Chapter 15, as a result of the Supreme Court ruling in the case of Miranda v. Arizona in 1966, all police officers must inform anyone they arrest of the following four rights:

• The right to remain silent; any statement made can be used against you in court.

■ The right to have an attorney present during any questioning.

• The right to have a court-appointed attorney if you cannot afford one.

• The right to stop answering questions at any time.

The suspect is taken to a local police station and booked, or charged with a crime. As part of the booking process, the police fingerprint and photograph the suspect. During that time he or she is allowed to call a lawyer. If the suspect cannot altbrd a lawyer, the state will provide one.

Hearing, Indictment, and Arraignment

A few hours after being booked, the suspect appears in court and is informed of the charges against him or her. At this time the prosecution must show the judge that there is probable cause a good reason for believing that the accused committed the crime with which he is charged. The judge then either sends the accused back to jail* sets bail for him, or releases him on his own recognizance, which means the accused is released without having to pay bail. Instead, the accused promises to appear in court when called.

As noted in Chapter 15, in federal courts and many state courts, grand juries are used to decide whether a person should be indicted—formally charged with a crime. In some states, a preliminary hearing is used instead of a grand jury

@ Trial date is set

<.jk) Prosecution and defense present casts t<* jury (or Judge)

<.jk) Prosecution and defense present casts t<* jury (or Judge)

* Jury (or Judge) reaches verdict

* Jury (or Judge) reaches verdict

Evaluating Chart* &-1

If a person pleads guilty to a crime In an arraignment, the case does not go to trial. What are two possible verdicts in a trial?

Preventing Counterfeiting |

In 1990, new security features were added to American currency-a security thread that glows in ultraviolet light, color-shifting ink on the lower right corner, and enlarged., off-center portraits. A watermark, identical to the portrait, is visible from both sides of the bill when you hold it up to a light source. These features were kept for the new currency released in 2003.

indictment. In some cases, when a grand jury is not used, the prosccutor files an "information/' which claims that there is sufficient evidence to bring the accused person to trial. If the judge agrees, the accused is indicted.

The defendant then appears in court for a procedure called an arraignment. He or she is formally presented with the charges and asked to enter a plea. If the defendant pleads not guilty, the case continues. If the defendant pleads guilty, he or she stands convicted of the crime, and the judge will determine a punishment. Another option is for the defendant to plead no contest. This means that he or she does not admit guilt but will not fight the prosecution's case. The effect is much the same as for a guilty plea.

Plea Bargaining Sometimes after reviewing the charges and evidence against a suspect, a defendant's lawyer may encourage him to accept a plea bargain. A plea bargain is an agreement in which the accused person agrees to plead guilty, but to a lesser charge. Bv accepting a plea bargain* die defendant avoids a time-consuming and lengthy trial. It also ensures that a person will be punished for committing a crime.


If the case goes to trial, the defense has much work to do. The lawyer interviews witnesses* studies the laws affecting the case, and gathers as much information as possible. /\1 though criminal defendants have a constitutional right to a jury trial, many give up that right and have their cases tried before a judge alone in what is called a bench trial. If the defense does ask for a jury trial, the first step when the trial starts is to choose the jurors. Both sides select potential jurors from a large pool of residents within the court's jurisdiction. Both sides try to avoid jurors who might be unfavorable to their side. Either side can reject a certain number of jury candidates without having to give reasons and can ask the judge to dismiss others for various causes.

After the jury has been chosen, the lawyers for each side make an opening statement in which they outline the case they will present. The prosecution and defense then present their cases in turn. Each side calls witnesses who swear that their testimony the answers they give while under oath—will be "the truth, the whole truth, and nothing but the truth."

After a witness testifies for one side, the other side is allowed to cross-examine him or her. The questions asked in cross-examination are often designed to make the witness's original testimony appear unreliable or untrue. Finally, each side makes a closing statement highlighting the testimony and evidence that support it and questioning the other side's testimony and evidence. The judge then "instructs* the jury, or explains the law that relates to the case.

The Verdict and Sentencing

'Jfhc last part of a trial begins when the jury goes off to think over and discuss the case and reach a verdict. After choosing a foreman or forewoman to lead the

discussion* the jurors review the evidence and legal arguments they have heard. Jury deliberations are secret and have no set time limit. Finally, they vote on whether the defendant is guilty or not guilty. To decide that a person is guilty, the jury must find the evidence convincing "beyond a reasonable doubt." Most states require a unanimous vote. If a jury feels that the prosecution has not proven its case, it can decide on acquittal. Acquittal is a vote of not guilty. The defendant is then immediately released.

Sometimes a jury cannot agree on a verdict, even after days of discussion and many votes. When that happens, the judge declares a hung jury and rules the trial a mistrial. With a mistrial, the prosecution must decide whether to drop the charges or ask for a retrial.

11' a defendant is found guilty, the judge sets a court date for sentencing. In some cases, a jury recommends a sentence. More often, however* the judge decides on the sentence after considering the defendant's family situation, previous criminal record, employment status, and other information.

Sentences often specify a period of time to be spent in prison. Today victims of the crime are often allowed to make statements about the sentence, and judges may take those statements into account. Sentences may include fines or a set number of hours spent doing community service work.

If the defendant is found guilty» the defense may, and often does, appeal the verdict to a higher court. (If the case was a capital case, or one involving the death penalty, the appeal could go directly to the state supreme court.) Usually the appeal contends that the judge made errors or that the defendant's constitutional rights were violated. If the jury votes not guilty, however, the Fifth Amendment prohibition against double jeopardy bars the prosecution from appealing the verdict.

feiJJMULJl^JBBWL Exp|a|n|ng What does the defendant do during the arraignment?

Student Web Activity ViaiL and click on Student Web Activities-Chapter 16 to learn more about court systems.


Checking far Understanding

1. Key Terms Use Ihe following key terms in a paragraph that relates to criminal eases: crime arraignment, testimony, cross-examine, acquittal, hung jury.

Reviewing Main Ideas

2. Identify What are four functions of penalties for crimes? How are those convicted of crimes usu ally punished?

3. Define What is the basic procedure of a criminal case? Outline and doseribo each step in a criminal case.

Critical Thinking

4. Drawing Conclusions Why do you think judges allow some suspecte to be released on their own recognisance?

5. Summarizing Information What is the jury's job? Outline the functions of the jury on a chart similar Lo the one below.

Analyzing Visuals

6. Infer Review Ihe procedures in criminal cases on page 371. What occurs if a defendant pleads guilty and accepts a plea bargain? What happens if a defendant pleads not guilty?


7. Research Read a local or national newspaper to find an ongoing or recenL criminal case. Describe the procedures of a criminal case using details from the particular case you've found.

Duties of Jury

Possible Jury Votes/Outcomes

Chapter 16 Civil and Criminal Law 373

andmaïk Supreme Court

Case Studies

Gideon v. Wainwright

Background of the Case

In 1942 the Supreme Court, in Serfs v. Brady. ruled that t.he Sixth Amendment did not require steites to appoint allorneys far people who could nol afford them. By way of the Fourteenth Amendment, however, it held that states were rcquirod to supply lawyers in cases lhal held lhe death penally. In June 1961. Clarence Earl Gideon of Florida was accused of theft, a non death penalty crime. Gideon mistakenly believed Lhe Supreme CourL had en Li Lied him lo courL-appointed counsel, and so asked for a lawyer. His request was domed, so Gideon defendod himself in an inlelligenl bul inadequale manner. The judge sentenced him to five years in prison.

The Supromo Court agreed to hear the case aftor Gideon himself wrole and senl his own pe Li Lion from his prison cell. Because only lawyers may speak before the Supreme Court, a Washington. D.C., attor ney was appoinLed for Gideon. A Florida lawyer represented Louie Wainwright, head of the state:s prisons.

Hie Decision

The Court's ruling came on March 18. 1963. Justice Hugo L. Black wrole Lhe unanimous decision:

Clarence Earl Gideon

In the 1930s, the Supreme Court ruled that the Sixth Amendment requires the government to supply lawyers for those defendants who cannot afford one In all federal cases. How did poor defendants acquire Sixth Amendment rights in state courts?

We accept Get.t.s v. Brady's assumption . . . that a provision of the Bill of Rights whicfj is "fundamental and essential to a fair trial* is made obligatory upon the States by the Fourteenth Amendment. We think the Court in Betts was wrong, hoover, in concluding that the Sixth Amendments guarantee of counsel is not one of these fundamental rights. . . . any person hauled into court, who is too poor to hire a lav/ycr. cannot be assured a fair trial unless counsel is provided for him.

The Court thus overturned Betts. Under the "due process' clause of the Fourteenth Amendment, it found lhe Sixth Amendmenl guaranlee of counsel binding on state as well as federal courts.

Why It Matters

Although some states by 1963 already provided court appointed lawyers in non death penalty cases, lhe Gideon decision assured Lhis proleclion in all Lhe states. Gideon was retried and found not guilty.

Analyzing the Court Décision

1. How did the Gideon ruling affect the earlier Betts decision?

1. How did lhe Cour I apply die Fourteenth Amendment In Gideon?




When young people, or Juveniles, commit crimes, the American Judicial system treats them differently from adults. Juvenile criminal cases follow a general standard procedure.

Internet Entrepreneurship Survival Guide

Internet Entrepreneurship Survival Guide

Master The Backwoods of Internet Entrepreneurship All Distilled into a Single Most Powerful Guide! Like a long pole, that can shift a great weight with little effort such is the case with succeeding in business. Your chances of succeeding-as an 'army of one' fall somewhere between zip, zilch and nill.

Get My Free Ebook

Post a comment