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Introduction to Criminal Justice Essay

The federal criminal justice system comprise of federal courts, corrections, and law enforcement agencies. The United States Attorneys is the primary agency taking charge of cases involving the U. S. government as a party and in collecting debt owed to the federal government. The federal judiciary has a Supreme Court, appellate courts, and trial or district courts. Federal law enforcement agencies derive their authority from the U. S. Constitution and federal laws while the state law enforcement obtains authority from the state constitution and legislations.

The difference in source of authority, which determines jurisdiction and role, determines whether a criminal case is a federal or state matter. Federal Criminal Justice System The criminal justice system in America today comprise of courts, corrections and law enforcement operating at the local, state and federal level (Samaha, 2006). These tiers of decision-making operate independently according to the scope of their jurisdictions. The discussion focuses on the federal level relative to the local and state levels.

The U. S. Department of Justice comprises the primary criminal investigative and law enforcement agency at the federal level. The Office of the United States Attorneys, which falls under the U. S. Department of Justice, comprise the principal litigators assigned to judicial districts, within which each Unite States Attorney exercise the role as the chief federal law enforcement officer for the United States. The United States Attorneys Office mainly prosecutes cases involving the United States as a party and collect debt owed to the U. S. ederal government as provided by Title 28, Section 547 of the U. S. Code. (United States Attorneys, 2009) The federal judiciary or court system emerged from Article III of U. S. Constitution. This has three tiers of decision-making. At the top is the U. S. Supreme Court comprised of the Chief Justice and eight associate justices handling cases involving important constitutional or federal questions of law that originated in the state or the federal courts. In the middle is the appellate court, made-up of 94 judicial districts pooled into 12 regional circuits.

The U. S. Court of Appeals in every circuit handles appealed cases coming from the district courts or federal administrative agencies as well as handles appeals of special cases. At the lower level is the trial court comprised of the district courts, with criminal and civil jurisdiction. The Court of International Trade and the U. S. Court of Federal Claims are special trial courts. (Samaha, 2006; “Understanding the federal courts,” 2009) Federal law enforcement agencies derive their authority from the U. S. Constitution.

Article 1, Section 8 provides the power of Congress to enact laws needed in executing governmental powers. The constitutional powers of Congress accords federal law enforcement agencies with the authority to operate. Whenever, Congress enacts a statute, it designates the federal agency responsible for enforcement of this law. The provisions of the enacted laws assigned for enforcement to federal agencies indicate the limit and scope of the authority of the federal agencies. (May et al. , 2008)

The difference in the role of federal agents and state or local law enforcement officers lies in the jurisdiction and scope of authority. A federal agent has a wider jurisdiction but with a narrower scope of authority determined by federal statutes. Federal law emanates from the constitution that empowers the U. S. Congress to enact laws at the federal level. State or local law enforcement officers have narrower jurisdiction limited only to the boundaries of the state or locality but with broader scope of authority covering the enforcement of all laws applicable to the state or locality.

State/local laws come from the state legislatures obtaining authority from the state constitution. (May et al. , 2008) Investigation or prosecution of a crime is a federal matter when the criminal act or issue are covered by federal law or the U. S. Constitution, the U. S. government is a party, special cases within the authority of the federal law justice system, and other cases within federal question jurisdiction. A crime is under state jurisdiction in cases violating the criminal laws of the state.

The state holds broad jurisdiction of various cases but with the exception of those falling under the exclusive statutory jurisdiction of the federal courts. (May et al. , 2008) It makes sense to have dual criminal statutes in the federal and state systems covering the same offense. In case of common jurisdiction over an offense, such as discrimination in employment, the parties can opt to file in case in federal or state courts.

There are also ways of distinguishing jurisdiction such as the diversity jurisdiction of the federal courts in cases involving residents of two different states over a controversy amounting to more than $75,000 dollars. (May et al. , 2008) The federal criminal justice system operates independently from state and local criminal justice by having its constitutional and federal statute determined jurisdiction. However, it has links with local and state criminal justice in hearing appeals of cases originating from the state courts on grounds of pertinent issues of law.


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