How Does the Criminal Justice System Work?
“Knowledge is power” – Proverbs 24:5
Successful navigation of the criminal justice system requires knowledge, not just of the substantive law, but of the laws governing procedure. It is not enough to know the elements of the crime. One must know the process, as well.
The criminal justice system is a complex framework of interconnected procedures that differ from one jurisdiction to another. If you have not previously traversed the system, you will likely find it frightening and dauntingly unfamiliar.
Be comforted in knowing that, in this country, we do have a system, a framework that governs criminal cases. Every criminal case follows the same general path from origin to conclusion, when the offender exits the system. Stated another way, there is an entrance and an exit.
The Bureau of Justice Statistics prepared a criminal justice system flowchart to illustrate the steps and procedures in a criminal case. Click on the link to access the flowchart, but remember that specific procedures may vary from one court to another, and from one judge to another.
This flowchart is provided for general information only and should not be relied upon in any particular case, as procedures can vary greatly.