Criminal Process – Road Map

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Criminal Process – Road Map

Criminal Process – Road Map

The United States of America employs the services of federal courts and state courts in deciding cases. The federal government and each state have a separate legal framework which consists of police agencies, lawyers, attorneys, prosecutors and judges (Ambos, 2013). Each court system has powers to prosecute, try and judge criminal issues. This paper explores the processes used in prosecution, sentencing and acquittal with respect to American court systems. It also highlights the defendant’s right of allocution and the road map used when handling cases from district courts to the Supreme Court.

The role of the police is to maintain law and order throughout the United States of America. The police are responsible for arresting and prosecution of law breakers. At the same time, an aggrieved person can report directly to the prosecutor for action against the perpetrators. Each state has authority to prosecute various types of crimes, investigate the crimes and pass judgement on cases within its jurisdiction (Haynes & Best, 1931). The offender and the offended have a right of fair hearing, justice and various freedoms as envisaged in the constitution.

The state courts and the federal courts have various mandates. State courts interpret state laws while the federal courts interpret federal laws. The state courts have the general mandate of giving judgement in various states.  Most laws that affect the day to day lives are passed and handled by various states (Ewing & Doyle, 2005). Federal courts have limited jurisdiction; they deal with special kinds of cases. They deal with cases which violate the federal law and cases which include citizenship diversity. Federal courts serve important roles too since they judge cases pertaining to basic rights such as freedoms of speech, freedom of expression and freedom of equal protection.  Each state has Circuit Courts, Courts of Appeal and The Supreme Court. At the same time, the federal government has district courts, Courts of Appeal and the Supreme Court. The federal Supreme Court is the highest court in the American soil.

When people commit crimes in the United States, they are arrested and arraigned in state circuit courts of federal district courts depending on the type of crime committed. The accused has a right to a fair hearing in one of the courts (Ambos, 2013; Kobor, 2008). At the same time, the accused has a right to legal representation which can be in the form of attorneys. One the date for the hearing is set by the court, the attorneys represent the accused in court. The petitioner may also choose to appear in person or seek legal representation. The accused is tried in court to resolve the issues surrounding the complaint or arrest. The hearing process derives from various parts of the constitution. The judges listen to submissions from both sides before making an informed decision. The verdict issued should not contravene any existing laws in the land.

Once the verdict is made, the defendant has two options; to accept or to appeal. It is important to note that the case may be decided in favor of the accused or against the accused. In case the case is decided in favor of the accused, they have nothing more than cerebrating and continuing with their normal lives. According to Ewing & Doyle (2005), the defendant may accept the judgement or appeal the case for review in a higher court. Cases heard in circuit courts or district courts should be appealed to courts of appeal in the state or federal courts respectively.

The courts of appeal reviews the decisions made in the lower courts and listen to the claims of the accused. The courts of appeal may uphold the decisions made by other courts or decide otherwise. In either case, the accused may be acquitted or declared guilty of the offence. In some cases, the court may decide the case and acquit the accused after payment of fines, a short time in prison or payment of restitution to the complainant. The accused may also be put on probation under supervision of the court’s officials.

In case the accused is declared guilty, the court of appeal decides the sentence. Before giving the sentence, the U.S. court of appeal may decide to conduct further test on the accused to ascertain the claims made by the complainant. According to Disand (2011), tests may include drug abuse tests, counselling, detention, further interrogation, insanity tests, electric monitoring and even blood tests. In case the accused is not satisfied of the ruling, they are at liberty to appeal to the highest courts of the land, the state or federal supreme courts.

The guilty respondent has basic rights such as the right of allocution. The right of allocation demands that the guilty person should be addressed by the judge directly before the sentence is pronounced. This gives the defendant an opportunity to ask for appeal or to add anything that may lessen the severity of the sentence to be delivered. During the address, the judge may ask the defendant questions and the defendant may apologize or show remorse and explain the motivations of the actions committed (Offices of the United States Attorneys, 2017).

If the accused is not satisfied with the decision, they may appeal to the Supreme Court. Criminal cases in state courts cannot be handled in the federal Supreme Court. Decisions made in the Supreme Court are final and cannot be challenged or reviewed anywhere else.

In conclusion, it is important to note that the United States of America’s court systems are organized into federal courts and state courts. Common cases are handled by state courts while some special cases are handled by the federal laws. The accused have freedom of expression, freedom of fair hearing and all other freedoms enjoyed by citizens until they are declared guilty. Anybody arraigned in circuit state courts or district federal courts is at liberty to appeal to the respective courts of appeal to have the sentence reviewed by a higher court in the federal or state. The Supreme Court is the highest court in each state but the federal Supreme Court is the highest court in the United States of America.


Ambos, K. (2013). Treatise on international criminal law.

Broyles, D. S. (2011). Criminal law in the USA. Alphen aan den Rijn, The Netherlands: Wolters Kluwer Law & Business.

Ewing, A. B., & Doyle, C. (2005).The USA Patriot Act Reader. New York: Novinka Books.

Haynes, F., & Best, H. (1931). Crime and the Criminal Law in the United States. Journal of Criminal Law And Criminology (1931-1951)22(1), 144. doi:10.2307/1134924

Kobor, S. (2008). Bargaining in the criminal justice systems of the United States and Germany: A matter of justice and administrative efficiency within legal, cultural context. Frankfurt am Main u.a.: Lang.

Offices of the United States Attorneys. (2017). Introduction to the Federal Court System | USAO | Department of Retrieved 24 October 2017, from

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