Ethics in Criminal Justice


In most professional occupations, ethics is a significant aspect to consider especially in fields such as pharmaceutical research, business, medicine, as well as criminal justice. Ethics is a term which when applied triggers sensitiveness of individuals, mostly persons working in the criminal justice system. The word ethics can be divisive because it tends to invoke different reactions. It is a word whose meaning is affected by religious beliefs and moral philosophy, individuals’ upbringing, and personal and work experiences among others. This paper will discuss the significance of ethics in criminal justice as well as criminal justice procedure.


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Definition of Ethics

Ethics can be two things. Firstly, it is referred to as sound values of right and wrong, which prescribes what people should do mostly regarding rights, duties, benefits to community, fairness, or specific qualities. For instance, ethics encompasses the principles that enforce the rational obligations to refrain from fraud, murder, assault, or rape. Ethical values also entail those ones which command virtues of loyalty, honesty, and compassion. Besides, they may involve principles associated with rights such as the right to privacy and life. Standards such as these are sufficient principles of ethics since constant and sound reasons support them (Pollock, 2014).

Secondly, ethics entails the study and advancement of a person’s ethical standards. As indicated above, laws, feelings, and social norms can digress from what is ethical. Therefore, it is important to examine one’s values consistently to ensure that they are sensible and well-founded. Moreover, ethics means the constant effort of studying one’s moral conduct and beliefs. Also, people should ensure that they live up to the realistic and solidly-based standards (Pollock, 2014).

Definition of Ethics in the Context of Criminal Justice

There is a close link between criminal justice and ethics. The citizens of a nation give up individual rights for the government to offer them protection with criminal justice professionals being representatives of the government. For instance, the justice practitioners have the mandate to possess a higher moral character. In turn, the citizens of the country will gain confidence over the agents of the government who are affording them the protections. When performing their duties, all criminal justice professionals including prosecutors, police offers, judges, correctional officers, defense lawyers, parole officers, and probation offers ought to show the use of discretion at some point (Pollock, 2014).

Mostly, this happens when these practitioners face particular ethical dilemmas as opposed to making a decision in situations entailing broad ethical issues. Decisions are termed as fair and just if discretionary decisions are made based on ethics. The reason is that there exist shades of moral obligations, which are greater than others. Currently, the justice systems have become aware of the importance of ethics in the field of criminal justice. This is because just like every other profession, criminal justice practitioners are also engaging in unethical matters. Some of these behaviors are illegal in nature while others are not (Pollock, 2014).

Ethics in Law versus Real Life

Based on the ethics of the community, ethics in law was established and enforced by a nation’s government to mediate the relationships existing among people. They are also made to provide protection to the citizens. Before the law enforcement officers and the military implement legal ethics, it has to be officially approved by the three arms of the government. While legal ethics results in punishment when violated, ethics does not. In real life ethics, every situation depends on an individual’s morality and self-worth. For instance, it is ethical to drive carefully within the required speed limit because you do not want to injure someone (Brown, 2011).

However, when a person drives at a low speed because he\she sees a police vehicle behind them, this means he/she fears to break the law and receive punishment accordingly. In real life, ethics emanates from an individual’s morals sense and aspiration to preserve his self-dignity. Thus, ethical conduct in real life is not as strict as legal ethics. Nevertheless, legal ethics involves the consideration of certain ethical standards meant to help keep order in the society; breaking them may bring about harsh punishments and at times result in violating moral values. Therefore, ethics in real life and law is significant to offer guidance and stability to the citizens and the society as a whole (Brown, 2011).

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Importance of Equal Treatment in the Criminal Justice

The role of criminal justice system is to avail justice for all by prosecuting and punishing the guilty as well as assisting them to stop breaking the law while protecting the innocent. However, the justice practitioners sometimes tend to deviate from this central purpose of the judicial system and commit unethical acts. Such actions may include enforcing laws in a way that is greatly pervasive and biased. As a result, there comes unequal treatment in the justice system. In a judicial system where there are apprehensions and punishment of the lawbreakers, the system ought to remain viable, and offenders in similar circumstances are treated in the same way.

Therefore, the criminal justice system should ensure that it provides an equal treatment for everyone whenever it is administering justice so as to avoid dividing people based on race, class, and status in the society. This way, the ordinary person will entrust the justice practitioners as the agents of the government providing protection to them (Schlesinger, 2008).

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Major Safeguards Provided by the Criminal Procedure

According to Hemmens and Brody (2010), the criminal procedure provides three major safeguards, which include Miranda rights, self-incrimination, as well as searches and seizures. Miranda rights entail explanation rights, which ought to be given to an individual before being interrogated by the law enforcement officers. These rights stem from the U.S Constitution’s Fifth Amendment and offer an advantage against self-incrimination. Search and seizure refer to a process utilized in various civil and common-law legal frameworks by which justice practitioners such as police officers undertake a search in a potential criminal’s property and seize any significant evidence to the crime.

However, the U.S. Constitution’s Fourth Amendment provides protection to individual’s privacy. It ensures that having their privileges, every citizen is free from unreasonable government invasion into their property whether through stops by police on the streets, searches of homes and businesses as well as during arrests. Therefore, the law requires the police officers to avail a search warrant whenever they want to engage in any search and seizure. Thus, in situations when evidence is collected without a permit, it may be deemed irrelevant to a certain case in a court of law (Hemmens & Brody, 2010).

The U.S. Constitution’s Fifth Amendment provides that an individual has a right against self-incrimination and bars the government from obliging anyone to provide testimonial evidence with a likelihood of implicating him during a criminal case (Hemmens & Brody, 2010).

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Ethics comprises standards of right or wrong, which an individual should follow. In criminal justice, the practitioners of justice should have high moral standards for the citizens of a country to trust them as their givers of protection. Ethics in real life differs from ethics in law. While legal ethics results in punishment, real life ethics does not. However, they depend on an individual’s self-morality and worth. There is a need for criminal justice equal treatment of all to prevent dividing people based on their race and status in the society. The major safeguards in criminal procedure encompass Miranda rights, self-incrimination, as well as searches and seizures.

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