The purpose of this book is to elucidate for others what apparently is a mystery and to make accessible to all persons, wherever located, one of the best legal systems ever devised by mankind – i.e. – the criminal justice system of the United States of America. What will follow therefore will be a straightforward analysis of that system with an emphasis on clarity and insight. Hopefully, this book will remove the mystery from the system and answer oft asked questions as to how the system works.
We, the authors of this book want it to be many things for many people: a road map for the layperson, a handbook for the general practitioner of the law and a succinct overview for the defense attorney. We also wish our book to be an educational tool for the international student interested in our system of criminal jurisprudence. With these diverse objectives as a starting point, we have endeavored to write what follows in such a manner as to make its contents accessible to many different persons with varying interests and/or concerns. If a citizen is interested in the federal criminal system of justice (s)he will find answers to many questions herein. If a high school or college student is interested in pursuing a career in criminal justice, hopefully, this book will pique their curiosity and provide some sense of direction in defining their goals and the kinds of opportunities available to them. For law students or paralegals interested in a career with major emphasis on the criminal law, this type of book should be a must. For international persons interested in American jurisprudence, hopefully, our work will explain our system of justice in logical and understandable terms. And on and on . . . we hope. We redundantly use the words “hope” and “hopefully” for a reason; for our stated objective is admittedly ambitious, but, or at least so we believe, entirely possible.
The reason we believe this book can accomplish its stated objectives is due in large part to the subject matter itself. The federal criminal system is not only organized and codified; it is also systematic and concisely drafted. Indeed, the codified law as it now exists literally represents Man’s best and latest efforts to distill centuries of common sense. Thus, it is the symmetry of the system itself which makes this attempt possible.
What we will endeavor to cover in our book is a description of the federal criminal process, from beginning to end. Our treatment will not be exhaustive, nor will it be a treatise on federal criminal procedure. What we will describe is what happens to an American citizen when (s)he is arrested and/or indicted on federal charges. What happens to such a person? When you finish reading this book, hopefully, you will know the answer. You will know how the alleged crime was investigated, how the decision to prosecute was made and what alternatives to prosecution exist within the system. You will know what the role of a grand jury is in the process, and you will understand the duties and role of a United States Attorney, a United States Magistrate and a United States District Court Judge. You will read about bail considerations, plea bargaining, jury selection, probation officers and appellate remedies. In short, you will read a description of the federal criminal process from its beginning to its end. When you read this book, hopefully, the mystery will be removed from the system that you wanted to understand better.
In the United States of America, citizens enjoy many rights and privileges. In this country, unlike others, it is axiomatic that no person may be deprived of his liberty without “due process of law”. The purpose of this book is to educate the reader as to what “due process of law” means in our federal courts. As shall be seen, the due process of law is involved, yet orderly. It is systematic, yet humane. It is thorough, balanced, objective and just. In short, it is an orderly procedure designed to ensure discovery of the truth. It consists of many component elements, all of which are essential to fulfillment of the salutary objectives of our judicial system – i.e. – to ensure that no person’s liberty is deprived unless compelling evidence requires it.
As stated, our federal criminal system of justice is the greatest ever devised by mankind. Like all human endeavors, the devised system which currently exists is not perfect. Mistakes are made and injustices, even though unintentional, do occur. American criminal jurisprudence is, however, the best effort of mankind to achieve justice and truth in human society.
It is our distinct pleasure to introduce the reader to the component elements of this system. Like any effort toward understanding, however, assimilations of the data presented is a pre-condition to recognition, comprehension and ultimately, appreciation. By removing the mystery from the system, we hope to instill in our readers an appreciation of how truly remarkable and just is this country’s legal system.