Ethics in Criminal Procedure
Ethics in Criminal Procedure
Ethics entails the study of what is right or wrong. According to Souryal (2010), determining what is morally correct requires some level of guided judgments. Ethics falls into three branches including meta-ethics, normative ethics and applied ethics. The first one deals with methodologies, language, and the structure of reasoning. Normative ethics involve standards of conduct and how people should behave. Applied ethics concerns itself with the study of how problems can be solved practically. It is applied mainly to professions including criminal justice and the medical arena. (Kleinig, 2008). Ethics is, therefore, the study of questions of how people should make moral choices when uncertain circumstances arise.
In the criminal justice perspective, ethics entail the application of normative and applied ethics with a view to helping decision-making processes involving difficult situations (Souryal, 2010). The professionals of criminal justice carry out duties that involve some application of power and authority when dealing with clients. In some situations, they involve forceful and coercive procedures during execution of these duties such as police arrests and suspects’ interrogations. Ethics plays the vital role of controlling and preventing unethical behaviors. The law imposes certain ethical rules in a bid to control criminal professionals (Kleinig, 2008). As such, the criminal professionals ought to adhere to the ethical protocol in their lines of duty. Moreover, ethics helps in making balance decisions, especially in situations that involve discretion and the use of force. In the absence of ethical rules, criminal justice professionals can abuse power and authority (Kleinig, 2008). Normative ethics prescribes certain codes of conduct that members of the criminal justice system can follow when making tough decisions.
Scholars in ethics argue that perceptions of what is morally right or wrong in one context, culture or people might vary markedly among other perspectives. Scholars refer this phenomenon to as ethical relativism. Researchers argue that one moral judgment in different settings or contexts, people, cultures or professions cannot be true across the board (Kleinig, 2008). The meaning of ethics in real life might vary fundamentally from the law. For instance, in real life people practice ethics by simply adhering social norms stipulated by the society (Souryal, 2010). Understanding how norms function and their limits help people to know how to act in a manner that is ethical. People in real life follow social norms to behave morally rightfully while the law stipulates codes of conduct for criminal justice professionals.
The ethics are set out by people in authority. In many cases, ethics in real life stems from religious practices. Prescription of peoples’ beliefs regarding what is right or wrong draws on religious affiliations. Souryal (2010) maintains that the idea of authority that governs the criminal justice ethics makes individuals conform because of a belief that the source of obligation requires obedience. It is rational for criminal justice professionals to follow ethics like in real life situations. Norms such as table manners arise from social interactions. Ethics in law arise from institutional acts by the state, for instance, the laws of customs, trade, and other commercial relationships (Kleinig, 2008). The degree of effectiveness or the strength of norms is different among different people. They differ depending on the extent to which an individual feels to act in an ethical manner. Therefore, people conform to norms out of a habit, unlike ethics where conformity is as a result of obedience to obligation.
The criminal justice must ensure fair treatment of all people. Numerous social movements in the U.S succeeded in fostering fair treatment for all people regardless of their race, ethnicity, and social status. Ethics stipulates rules for the criminal justice systems to elude cases of unequal treatment. Cases of peoples’ differential treatment under the same laws should not occur in the modern society. For instance, legal separation of whites and blacks under state and local statute violate the Equal Protection Clause. There should be fair treatment of women and men. As such, the law must feature ethical standards that include fair treatment of all people regardless of their race, ethnicity, age, gender, religion, and sexual affiliation among other demographic factors.
The criminal procedures entail specific safeguards that aim to protect suspects and the victims from discrimination by the criminal laws or unfair treatment by the professionals. They serve to administer the constitutional privileges of criminal suspects as well as the defendants. The criminal procedures apply from the police involvement in the pursuit of suspects, through arrests, investigation, trial, sentencing, and appeals (O’rourke, 2013). First, the Fourth Amendment bring to light the right to be free from unreasonable search including persons, houses, papers, and effects. All searches must have the accompaniment of warrants, Oaths or affirmations. This amendment includes the prohibition of warrantless searches (O’rourke, 2013).
Second, the Fifth Amendment provides numerous procedural concerns such as the capital punishment, multiple trials of the same criminal offense and the general right to Due-Process (O’rourke, 2013). This procedure protects the suspected criminal from unlawful processes such as answering to capital punishment, double jeopardy, the compulsion of suspected criminals to be their witnesses (O’rourke, 2013). Third, the Sixth Amendment; criminal suspects enjoy the right to speedy and transparent trial in ascertained law courts. The Eighth Amendment bars the requirement of excessive bail, the imposition of heavy fines, and the infliction of unusual punishments.
Kleinig, J. (2008). Ethics and criminal justice: An introduction. London: Cambridge University Press.
O’rourke, A. (2013). Structural Overdelegation in Criminal Procedure. Journal of Criminal Law & Criminology, 103(2), 407-474.
Souryal, S. S. (2010). Ethics in criminal justice: In search of the truth. London: Routledge.