Criminal Defenses and Criminal Punishments Research


When it comes to the American legal system, there are two controversial areas that require greater scrutiny, and these are laws governing criminal defenses and criminal punishments. In the context of criminal punishment, it is best to re-examine the Castle Doctrine and the , especially when it comes to the use of force. In the context of criminal defenses, there are at least three major topics that require a more in-depth discussion, and these include: double jeopardy; the nature of the courts application of the adversarial system of litigating criminal cases; and the right to a speedy trial. An examination of the can help broaden a persons appreciation or critique of the American legal system.

Criminal Punishments

In the politically charged environment of present-day America, there are only a few topics of discussion that are as polarizing as the perceived abuses committed by police officers when subduing, apprehending, and neutralizing alleged suspects and those resisting arrest. At the heart of the issue is the need to determine when and how to use of lethal force. However, recent developments prompted a more nuanced examination of the legal principles that empower law enforcement agents to use lethal force to protect themselves. These two major legal concepts are the Castle Doctrine and Stand-Your-Ground Doctrine.

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In both the Castle Doctrine and the Stand-Your-Ground Doctrine, the inherent idea is the right of the person to defend himself or herself against intruders. In the book entitledCriminal Law and Procedurethe author asserted that the Castle Doctrine came from an older legal tradition stating that a mans home is his castle (Hall, 2015). This legal principle highlighted the fact that since an ordinary persons home is compared to a nobleman or kings castle, that ordinary citizen is given the legal right to defend the house against the intrusion of criminals or those with an intent to break the law. Nevertheless, the right to defend home or property is never absolute, because no one has the right to defend it at all cost. In other words, it is not lawful to harm the intruder if there is a chance to call for police assistance.

The Castle Doctrine becomes problematic when applied outside the premises of a persons property. The evolution of the Stand-Your-Ground Doctrine was due in large part to the Castle Doctrine (Hall, 2015). In this related legal principle, the right to use lethal force is extended outside the premises of a persons abode. In other words, a police officer standing in a street corner is empowered to pull out his weapon and shoot someone approaching him or her if the officer believes that the individual is a threat to his or her safety.

The superficial application of the Stand-Your-Ground Doctrine becomes problematic and controversial when applied to the daily occurrence in the life of a . It becomes more convoluted when applied to the activities of , and in cases involving citizens arrests. The controversies associated with this legal doctrine came to the fore in 2012 when George Zimmerman shot dead a teenager named Trayvon Martin (Cook & Goss, 2014). Zimmerman pointed out that he was acting out as a neighborhood watchman. Herein lies the controversy, because Zimmerman did not have the adequate training to assess different threat levels and how to escalate the application of lethal force (Cook & Goss, 2014). Thus, there is a need to revisit this legal principle.

Criminal Defenses

One of the most critical aspects of the American legal system is the adoption of a legal framework that is in place in order to minimize the possibility of the conviction or the imprisonment of innocent people. For this purpose, it is best to examine three concepts that are both helpful when it comes to preventing the miscarriage of justice. On the other hand, these concepts require greater scrutiny due to the possibility of becoming legal loopholes in favor of guilty parties.

These legal concepts include: double jeopardy; the adversarial system of litigating a criminal case; and the right to a speedy trial. With regards to the first concept, it is not difficult to appreciate the basic principle of the double jeopardy principle. This principle highlights the fact that it is not practical to prosecute a person multiple times for allegedly committing a specific act. However, a controversy arises when the prosecution team requests a mistrial or when there is judicial misconduct (Carlan, Nored, & Downey, 2016). In other words, there is a grave concern in the abuse and misuse of the principle, such that the utilization of legal technicalities help acquit the guilty party.

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