A criminal justice process is normally followed to ensure an individual’s rights are not abused. According to Moak and Carlson (3), the criminal justice process aims to ensure that relevant fact-finding is conducted in an effort to establish the truth. The criminal justice procedure needs to be done in accordance or by not being in contrary to an individual’s right as stipulated in the Fourth, Fifth, Sixth, Eighth and Fourteen amendments of the U.S. Constitution. Moak and Carlson (4) note that a criminal justice process needs to involve intensive cross-examination of both prosecution witness (the arresting officer and any other potential witness) and defense or the accused (Amanda Watson).
Siegel (21) indicates that the criminal justice system is divided into three main components. The first component is the police and law enforcement. This may involve state, federal and municipal agencies that have the responsibility of ensuring peace, providing emergency assistance, investigating crimes and apprehending suspects. The second component is the court system, which is involved in the prosecution of criminal suspects, carrying out trials and giving out sentences to those found guilty of their offences. The third component is the correctional system or the rehabilitation stage, which mainly deals treatment and rehabilitation of convicted felons. Different stages in the three main components of the criminal justice process include arrest, trial sentencing, imprisonment and other penalties such as fines (Blakemore, and Griggs 69). An offender can exit the criminal justice process at any one of these stages depending on the nature of crime or maybe lack of evidence. Siegel (21) notes that the criminal justice process is transformative in nature. This implies that once a person is arrested he is first a suspect, if found guilty he becomes a convicted criminal and if released from a correctional facility he becomes an ex-offender.
Description of the Crime
Addressing of illegal drugs has become a main concern in United States. Drug offenders are continuously increasing. Drug offenders are mostly concerned with distribution of illegal drugs such as marijuana and cocaine. A lot of drug related violence may develop from the sale and possession of illegal drugs. Committing a crime of drug possession occurs when a person knowingly has control over illegal drugs (Carlan, Nored and Downey 113). In the United States, manufacture, sale and possession of controlled substances is illegal (Scheb and Scheb 231). Cocaine is a controlled and illegal substance in the United States. According to Weiss, Mirin and Bartel (173), possession of cocaine in most cases is normally classified as a misdemeanor and the sale of cocaine is a felony. However, it is important to note that certain states may treat possession of cocaine as felony.
Amanda Watson was being arrested based on an earlier arrest warrant when the police officer noticed a plastic bag that looked to contain crack cocaine. On field-testing, the results showed positive for crack cocaine. Thus, based on the location of the bags next to Amanda Watson, she was charged with possession of a controlled substance with intent to distribute. This was based primarily on the fact that devices used to ingest the crack cocaine were not found at the scene. Based on the description of the case, Amanda Watson was a second time offender. However, the penalties for intent to distribute will depend on the amount that was being sold or the amount in possession.
Description of the processes in the adult American criminal justice system the offender would go through, beginning with arrest
This is the first step in the criminal justice process. The police arrested Amanda Watson based on an earlier arrest warrant for shoplifting. However, the Sgt. Butler noticed a plastic bag that had contents resembling cocaine, which upon field-testing proved to be the case. According to Siegel (22), an arrest can be made when the police officer believes there is sufficient evidence, and in Amanda’s case, the sufficient evidence was the plastic bags with crack cocaine. This provided more legal evidence for the police to arrest her on charges of possession and intent to distribute an illegal drug.
Once arrested, Amanda would be taken into police custody for booking, where her she would be photographed and her fingerprints taken. Amanda would then be interrogated to establish her source of the crack cocaine. Interrogations would be conducted in the presence of Amanda’s lawyer.
The next step will involve charging Amanda Watson in a court of law. The prosecutor has to first assess the evidence presented before him and decide whether it is sufficient to charge Amanda Watson. A grand jury will be held to allow the prosecutor to present the evidence. According to Siegel (22), the purpose of the grand jury is to establish that there is a probable cause that Amanda committed the crime and there is sufficient evidence to charge her in a court of law. The grand jury would establish that there was sufficient evidence to charge Amanda. This is because she was found having a plastic bag of a substance, which reassembled crack cocaine next to her. The officers’ field-test indicated that it was indeed crack cocaine. Further, with the absence of devices to ingest the crack cocaine, the grand jury would uphold the charges of possession with intent to distribute.
Amanda would then be arraigned in the court that would actually try her case. This would involve the reading of the charge possession with intent to distribute. Amanda would then be informed of her constitutional right to have a legal counsel. Based on her previous arrest warrant for shoplifting bail would be denied and Amanda would be held in custody during the trial period. In cases involving drugs, a plea bargain is common. In Amanda’s case, the prosecutor may offer to reduce her charges in case she provides useful information, which may lead to possible arrest of more drug traffickers. Considering an absence of plea bargains, the trial process begins.
The criminal trial of Amanda will involve her entering into a plea of guilty or not guilty. Assuming that she pleads not guilty, the judge will allow the trial case to continue. The jury will find Amanda Watson guilty of possession with intent to distribute based on the scale of evidence presented by the prosecution, which clearly indicates that she was in possession of crack cocaine with intent to distribute. Once confirmed guilty by the jury, the judge will proceed to give a sentence to Amanda Watson. Amanda would be sentenced to 20 years in prison because the plastic bags indicated that she was in possession of relatively more than 100 grams of cocaine. Since the exact amount of cocaine in her possession is not indicated, one can assume by the access to the number of plastic bags found that Amanda was in possession of more than 100 grams of cocaine. The sentence would imply that Amanda would be sent to a women’s maximum correctional facility.
Alternatively, Amanda may decide to enter into a plea bargain with the prosecution to have her sentenced reduced. This may result in the trial ending early. Amanda may be sentenced to a maximum 5 years in a minimum correctional facility if she offers to indict others involved in the drug trafficking and distribution crimes. The crimes involving drugs are becoming a huge problem in the United States. Murders associated with drug related violence are on the rise. The state in an effort to contain or reduce drug related crimes would see it best to offer Amanda a deal in exchange for information that will result in the arrest of other drug offenders who are involved in mass distribution of cocaine. Additionally, this is the best alternative for Amanda.
The final process of the criminal justice system Amanda would undergo would be rehabilitation in the correctional facility. Assuming she is given a 5-year sentence in a minimum correctional facility, Amanda would be subjected to a treatment program for drug rehabilitation. Once she completes her prison term, Amanda would be released. She would then be assigned a probation officer whom she would be required to report to every week.
Analysis of the Weakest and Strongest links in the Criminal Justice Process
The strongest link in the criminal justice process is the observance of an individual’s right. The criminal justice process is designed to ensure a balance between the individual liberties and protection of the society (Cassell, Mitchell and Edwards 64). Through this process, the guilty are held accountable and the innocent set free.
The criminal justice process varies in the different states owing to issues such as state policy and funding. A major weakness to the criminal justice process is the presence of a state system, which discourages an active defense. In cases where an accused cannot afford legal representation, there is a provision for a court appointed attorney. This is the case in situations where the defendants lack the financial background to appoint their own defense attorney. Public defenders have high caseloads hence may fail to pay attention to one individual case (Worden, Davies and Brown1427). Public defenders may often lack the incentive to work on case hence will often want to conclude a case as quickly as possible.
Fairness is relevant in the procedural criminal justice process. No matter the offence committed, it is the obligation of the police officers and prosecution to ensure that the correct due process if observed. Lack of respecting individual rights of the accused may damage a case and the accused may be freed. Additionally, it is important to provide incentives to public defenders for purposes of ensuring the accused has quality service in terms of representations. Furthermore, most prosecutors do not serve as defense attorneys for the accused. According to Green (2347), it is important that prosecutors also serve as defense attorneys for the accused. This may help in showing fairness in criminal justice process.
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