Criminal and civil court structures

The person is usually let out upon his or her agreement to fulfill the wishes of the court.

Criminal and civil court structures

Court structure and organization Types of courts There are many different types of courts and many ways to classify and describe them. Basic distinctions must be made between criminal and civil courts, between courts of general jurisdiction and those of limited jurisdiction, and between appellate and trial courts.

There are also constitutionalfederal, and transnational courts. Criminal courts Criminal courts deal with persons accused of committing a crimedeciding whether they are guilty and, if so, determining the consequences they shall suffer. The prosecution of alleged offenders is generally pursued in the name of the public e.


The public is represented by an official such as a district attorney often called a prosecutorprocurator, or police officer.

Although courts are also agencies of the state, they are neutral in criminal proceedings, favouring neither the prosecution nor the defense. The impartiality of the court is strongly reinforced where juries are used to decide the guilt or innocence of the defendant. The role of the criminal court in civil-law systems is quite different from its role in common-law ones.

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Civil-law countries assign a more active role to the judge and a more passive role to counsel. Instead of being passive recipients of evidence produced by the prosecution and the defense, judges in civil-law systems often direct the presentation of evidence and even order that certain evidence be produced.

Thus, procedure in civil-law systems is considered inquisitorial. Judges in this system have an independent responsibility to discover the facts. In the common-law courts, adversary procedures tend to prevail; the lawyers for both sides bear primary responsibility for producing evidence and do most of the questioning of witnesses.

Advocates of the adversarial system hold that a just outcome is most likely to result when all possible relevant information—good tending to exonerate and bad tending to incriminate —is placed before an impartial adjudicator the judge or the jury.

Self-interest motivates both the defense and the prosecution to provide all possible evidence relevant to its side of the case.

The adversarial system, and its associated conception of justiceis a pillar of the common-law tradition, as evidenced in the U. If a defendant is found guilty, he is sentenced, again according to law and within limits predetermined by legislation. The objective of most punishment is not so much to wreak vengeance upon the offender as to rehabilitate him and to deter others from committing similar acts.

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Hence, the most common sentences are fines, short terms of imprisonment, and probation which allows the offender freedom under state supervision. In extremely serious cases, the goal may be to prevent the offender from committing further crimes, which may call for a long term of imprisonment e.

During the last third of the 20th century, however, the death penalty began to disappear from many criminal codes throughout the world; nonetheless, it remains in effect and is imposed widely in several countries, including the United States, Iran, and China.

The public is not ordinarily a party to the litigation as it is in criminal proceedingsfor its interest is limited to providing just and acceptable rules for making decisions and a forum where the dispute can be impartially and peacefully resolved.

These factors are important because the use of the civil courts is voluntary. The government may be involved in civil litigation if it stands in the same relation to a private party as another individual might stand.

If a government postal truck hits a pedestrian, for example, the government might be sued civilly by the injured person; or if the government contracted to purchase supplies that turned out to be defective, it might sue the dealer for damages in a civil court.

In such proceedings, however, the government acts as a private party. The objective of a civil action is not explicitly punishment or correction of the defendant or the setting of an example to others but rather restoration of the parties so far as possible to the positions they would have occupied had no legal wrong been committed.

Criminal and civil court structures

The most common civil remedy is a judgment for monetary damages, but there are others, such as an injunction ordering the defendant to do—or to refrain from doing—a certain act or a judgment restoring property to its rightful owner. Civil claims do not ordinarily arise out of criminal acts.

A person who breaks his contract with another or who causes him a physical injury through negligence may have committed no crime i.

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There are, however, areas of overlap, for a single incident may give rise to both civil liability and criminal prosecution. In some countries e. This removes the necessity of two separate trials. In common-law countries, there is no such procedure even though civil and criminal jurisdiction may be merged in a single court.

Two separate actions must be brought independent of each other. For example, in the United States in the mids, former football star O. In the United States, such collateral civil lawsuits have become attractive to victims of alleged crimes, particularly because the standard of proof in civil courts is dramatically lower than it is in criminal courts.

Courts of general jurisdiction Although there are some courts that handle only criminal cases and others that deal with only civil cases, a more common pattern is for a single court to be vested with both civil and criminal jurisdiction.

Examples of such courts include the High Court of Justice for England and Wales and many of the trial courts found in U. Canada is an instructive example, because the federal government has the exclusive authority to legislate criminal laws, while the provinces have the authority to legislate civil laws.

Virtually all cases, criminal and civil, originate in the provincial courts. Often these tribunals are called courts of general jurisdiction, which signifies that they can handle almost any type of controversy, though in fact they may not have jurisdiction over certain types of cases assigned to specialized tribunals e.

Often such courts are also described as superior courts, because they are empowered to handle serious criminal cases and important civil cases involving large amounts of money. In addition, most high appellate courts e.Federal courts hear cases involving the constitutionality of a law, cases involving the laws and treaties of the U.S.

ambassadors and public ministers, disputes between two or more states, admiralty law, also known as maritime law, and bankruptcy cases. Civil cases will sometimes be dealt with by magistrates, but may well go to a county court. Again, appeals will go to the High Court and then to the Court of Appeal – although to different divisions of those courts.

State Court Caseload Statistics is published exclusively online. This web-based format allows users to take advantage of improved functionality and makes possible electronic access to the data.

TITLE 18—CRIMES AND CRIMINAL PROCEDURE. This title was enacted by act June 25, , ch. , §1, 62 Stat. Publisher of academic books and electronic media publishing for general interest and in a wide variety of fields.

The Structure of the Courts UK Supreme Court Appeal only, on points of law Justices of the Supreme Court Court of Appeal Appeal only, on points of law to either the Criminal or Civil Divisions: Lord Chief Justice, Heads of Division and Court of Appeal judges County Court Trial for most civil cases.

Circuit judges, Recorders, District Judges.

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