Criminal Justice: Aspects of Criminal Law

Subject: Law
Pages: 4
Words: 923
Reading time:
4 min
Study level: College


The American judicial system has two types of courts, federal courts and state courts. They work together in strengthening the justice system in the country. Federal courts use laws that are binding to all the citizens while state courts operate on laws designed specifically for particular states. This paper defines this dual system of judiciary and goes ahead to look at the goals of making judgments.

The Dual Court System

This is the court system practiced in the United States of America. In this system, there are two types of courts: federal courts and state courts (Parker, 2007). The separation is based on the administrative system of the courts. The federal courts use national rules that are binding to all the citizens while state courts develop their own laws depending on the situation and how people live in their states (Roleff, 2013). Nonetheless, both systems are independent of the other arms of government. There is no interference from the legislative and executive arms of government.

Why America has a Dual Court System

There are several reasons why America has two types of courts running side by side. The first reason for the existence of this system is the inheritance of the system from the colonists. By the time America attained its independence from the British, the court system was already in place (Smartt, 2006). Therefore, the current system was adopted from the English system. The second reason is the need to have a third arm of the government that is responsible for the administration of justice to the citizens (Smartt, 2006). This is, of course, the priority of any government that wants its citizens to have justice and democracy. It led to the formation of federal courts. However, there also arose the need to restrict the powers of this court. As a result, state courts were formed. They were formed in all the states in the country. The need to design laws according to the demands of each state reinforced the necessity for these courts (Wu, 2015). Different crimes were viewed and interpreted differently by the citizens in the different states of the United States of America, bringing about the need for courts that would best understand the plight of the people. In the dual court system, the federal courts help in solving problems that are beyond the state courts. Such problems may, for example, be cases involving two or more states or those involving other countries.

The Drive towards Court Unification

The drive towards the unification of courts could lead to the formation of a monolithic court. Many people do not see the need for the existence of two types of courts. Hence, they have been pushing for the unification of courts over the years. Their push is likely to yield the results they have been anticipating: the monolithic court system. Such a system could be effective if each case is analyzed depending on the circumstances in the states where the people involved come from. This can help solve cases basing on the situations on the ground.

My Sentencing Goals and Philosophical Rationales

If I were a judge, my sentencing goals would be incapacitation, deterrence and rehabilitation. I have always believed in the correction of behavior and the prevention of criminals from harming citizens. This is the main reason for me to do my best to ensure that criminals change their behavior and do not continue harming innocent people. Incapacitation will aim at preventing the criminals from harming more people in the future (Criminal evidence, 2015). This can be done through denying them access to the tools they use in harming others or through locking them in jail. Rehabilitation, on the other hand, aims at correcting behavior so that former criminals are given an opportunity to change and be good citizens. My last sentencing goal, deterrence, will also help me prevent criminals from practicing crime.

Circumstances that may Change my Sentencing Goals

I think my sentencing goals may change in case I meet a criminal who does not show signs of changing despite having gone through rehabilitation and other corrective mechanisms. Such a case may imply that my sentencing goals are not suitable. Therefore, I may reconsider my position and decide to use retribution as a principle of punishing the offender. Retribution aims at making the offender experience the harm he/she causes other people.

Example of a Situation that may Change my Sentencing Goals

An example of a situation that may be difficult for me to judge is meeting a criminal who is involved in a myriad of murder cases and does not change even after having gone though processes meant to help him/her change and stop killing. This person is jailed for killing many people for no reason. After sentencing him to a jail term meant to help him/her stop killing other people, he kills an inmate after a short quarrel. When this person is handed an additional jail term and assigned a counselor to help change him, he kills the counselor. This would leave me with no other choice except having him executed in retribution of his/her actions. This way, my sentencing philosophy will change from being deterrent, incapacitating and rehabilitative to being retributive.


The two types of courts in America use different sets of laws that aim at giving justice to the citizens. State courts are specifically designed for residents of each state while federal ones are for the entire country. Judges in both courts are free to use whichever philosophy of criminal justice when punishing criminals.


Criminal evidence. (2015). Journal of Criminal Justice, 3(3), 260.

Criminal law. (2011). Journal of Criminal Justice, 9(6), 475.

Parker, B. (2007). Criminal justice. New York, N.Y., U.S.A.: Dutton.

Roleff, T. (2013). Criminal justice. San Diego, Calif.: Greenhaven Press.

Smartt, U. (2006). Criminal justice. London: SAGE.

Wu, J. (2015). Book Review: West Virginias criminal justice system. Criminal Justice Review.