An adversarial system is a justice system where parties to a dispute present their case before a neutral or impartial third party, either a judge or jury. Each party gets their turn to present their side of the story; this is done through arguments, evidence and law. During the proceedings, the third party acts as a referee between the two sides. An inquisitorial system on the other hand is where the third party is actively involved in the dispute as the investigator. In such system, the investigation is done by the court and if a claim or offence is established, the court then moves to trial. At the end the judge is required to determine the truth based on the investigation.
The U.S system is largely adversarial; the judge or jury plays a passive role in the trial. They listen to the prosecution case and then the defense. They then make a decision based on the evidence produced by each side. The role of the judge as a referee is seen where a judge is required to determine whether certain evidence will be presented or suppressed. This is meant to ensure fair play between the two sides. The system however also incorporates the inquisitorial system in relation to summary and regulatory offences.
A murder case provides a good example of adversarial system in play. The investigation is done by the authorities with little involvement of the court. Once the authorities decide to charge then accused, two sides emerge; the prosecution and the defense. The parties are regarded as adversaries and the judge acts as the referee (Schmalleger et. al, 2010). The final decision is based on the evidence produced. An example of a case involving inquisitorial system is a traffic offence. The police are only required to communicate the offence to court. The court then takes over the process and issues summons to the accused. In these cases, the judge almost leaves their role as a neutral third party and acts as the investigator of the offence.
Schmalleger, F., Hall, D. E. & Dolatowski, J. J. (2010). Criminal law today (4th ed.).
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