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The Criminal Justice System of United States of America-An Overview

31 August, 2018

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In the United States of America, the criminal justice systems very different as compared to all other countries of the world. It is not very simple in nature; rather it is an amalgam of three basic system that works together to deal with the criminal activities of all types. The criminal justice system works on federal, state, territorial courts and military courts work together for establishing this system. All these components of criminal justice system work on the constitution of USA, but at each level, their laws vary from each other according to the severity and nature of the criminal offense.

Components of Criminal Justice System of USA

Federal Criminal Justice System
The federal criminal justice system of America is concerned with all the criminal issues that are national in nature. These criminal offenses may include the assassination of a high ranked government official, an act of treason and espionage.

Within the federal court, there are many courts that work quite independently of the state-owned courts for criminals. These may include trial court, circuit court, and supreme court. They work with some limitations that are imposed on it by the constitution of the United States of America. Mainly this is the palace where the cases of criminal come for final trial and sentencing. If there is a case that is handled by the federal government, does not go through any state. It is handled only and only by the federal court.

State Criminal Justice System

The state criminal justice system of America works at the level of state in which each different state manages its criminal activities at their own level. Moreover, they also consider the links of that crime at the national level. Each stet has its own group of lawyers or attorneys that are specialized in this field according to the court laws of their state. For instance, Los Angeles Criminal Attorney would be qualified to deal with specific criminal activities of their state without any link to any other state.

Other Jurisdictions
Other than the national criminal justice system and the state criminal justice system, there are many other criminal justice systems working in America. The most prominent ones include the territorial justice system and the military court justice system. These systems manage the criminal cases that are of the same nature as those of the state criminal justice system.

Functioning of Criminal Justice System in the USA

No matter how high or low the level of criminal is done and how serious the matter is, the proper solution lies in the proper functioning of the whole criminal justice system. If all of its distinctive parts work in harmony with each other, only when the case is likely to get solved. The main focus is to make the criminal pay the charges of offense, repent and provide compensation to the affected person or family, etc.
Given below is the detail of the three main functional parts of the criminal justice system to help you understand how this system works.

Enforcement of Law
This part becomes functional as soon a crime is detected in a state or at the national level. The detection is complete when the law enforcement agency catch the criminal while doing the crime or get a report from the witness or the victim of crime. After the detection is done, the law enforcement agency, either police or other specialized agency, move towards the investigation process.

During the investigation process, the law enforcement body is allowed to arrest the culprit, collect and preserve the evidence against him/her, develop motive and finish the report by stating the results of the investigation. Another responsibility of law enforcement agency during investigation process is that confirm that the offense is done by the person held culprit in the reports, and also confirm if the victim and witnesses have provided the right information. After this confirmation session, further police or agency procedure is carried out for the criminal.

After this, at the federal level, a proper law enforcement cell has established that look into the details of certain areas of that crime. For example, there is a United States Department of Homeland security that deals in crimes related to human trafficking. Other than this, many other such bodies work at the federal level to counter terrorist attacks, etc.

Similarly, the state and other criminal justice bodies also have different names and different structures that work on that crime report. No matter how different levels they are working at and what areas these agencies are covering, the major goal of all is to enforce the law and establish a peaceful, safe and secure environment for the citizens.


Adjudication is the next step taken by the criminal courts when the law enforcement agencies complete their task of investigation. This involves the proceedings that take place within the court. In simple words, it can be elaborated as a process in which the court of law hear the case and give its judgment.
Just like the law enforcement agencies, the adjudication is also maintained at the federal, state and at specific jurisdiction level. These include following step by step services.

Services Before the Actual Trial

The first step is taken by the adjudication when the law enforcement agency submits the investigation report to the court of law. This report is thoroughly reviewed by the prosecutor to see the likelihood that whether or not the criminal will be held guilty of crime or not. This step is important because, in many instances, the prosecutor finds the evidence very irrelevant and weak. As a result, the prosecutor takes the side of the criminal and drop or dismiss the charges on him/her. In another case, the prosecutor is on victim side who got affected by that criminal offense.


This step is taken when the criminal reports are satisfactory to the prosecutor, and he finds the culprit guilty of a crime. Through this process, it is finalized that the criminal is guilty and will pay the charges filed against him/her.


The third step is the actual trial of the criminal. In this session of the court, the charges against the criminal are repeated, and the court decides the final sentence. But before all this is finalized, the court goes through an argument process.

During this process, the lawyers or attorney of two sides of the case defend their clients. The offender side tries to represent the innocence of the culprit while the victim side tries to defend their claims. Most of the times, after the argument session in which any one of the two sides tries to take advantage of the appeal system. In this system, the case is taken to high court which then finally uphold or overturn that case.


As a result of all the above investigation, pretrial, and trial, the court if decides that the offender is guilty of that crime, sentencing is the next step. This is declared by the judge who mentions about the type of sentence, with the guidelines and limitations of the sentence.

Death Penalty

This is the type of sentence that is announced when the offender has done something very heinous. Not every case has this ending. Crime type and level of severity decide all sentences.

These are the steps that are taken under the adjudication process. But this is not the end of the court processing of the case.

This is the third and the last functional part of the criminal justice system. As the name suggests its functioning, it basically deals with reforms and rehabilitation area of the case. The reforms and rehabilitation result in corrections that cover all the offenders that are charged with a sentence, including even those that are given death penalties.

This process is carried out by the federal and the state criminal justice systems. The reason behind doing this is simply that it is felt that the sentence announced against the criminal is harsher than it should be or maybe that criminal is not given as much strict punishment as it should have been given. Moreover, there are some sentences that do not require imprisonment, so this can be corrected by releasing the criminal or maybe of not imprisoned and threatening to the victim and society then correction is done to take him back to the jail. 

There is multiple another type of corrections that are done by this part of the criminal justice system. The corrections vary from case to case and its severity as well. The process is done in a very well-organized manner to take the sentenced person into or out of jail.

So, basically, this is how the criminal justice system in the United States of America is organized and works. It is a very transparent system that does not do injustice to any party involved in the criminal case, either the offender or the victim or witness. It is maintaining its reliability and credibility for decades and is striving for making further improvements with the passage of time.

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