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Criminal Procedure - Contrasting Perspectives On The Legal System


Many Americans come in contact with the U.S. legal system during their lifetimes, some for just cause and others without sufficient reason. From the "bottom"--that is, from the perspective of the person charged with a crime--the system of criminal justice may seem like a maze through which the individual is processed by means that often appear arbitrary and sometimes seem hostile or discriminatory in nature. There is little that is dignifying about undergoing arrest and incarceration; but under the constitutional system, persons in the United States enjoy a variety of protections against abuses of their basic rights.

Viewed from the "top"--that is, from the perspective of legal scholarship--criminal procedure in America is not so much concerned with the concrete paraphernalia of police activity, such as handcuffs and jail cells, as it is with qualities considerably more abstract. Specifically, criminal procedure is governed by a quartet of amendments to the U.S. Constitution, and by the legal interpretation of those amendments which has developed over the years since their adoption.

Criminal Procedure - Four Constitutional Cornerstones [next]

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