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Free «Ethics in Criminal Justice» Essay Sample


The focus of this paper is on the normative and the applied ethics, the investigation and analysis of ethical dilemmas and conflict issues that arise in the criminal justice system. The issue of ethics in criminal justice has gained a great importance over the past decades. The primary reason for this is that some cases of unfair court procedures have prompted the need to set ethic standards and provide guidance to those, who exercise authority over citizens. The underlying purpose of this research paper is to provide a thorough insight into criminal justice system in light of ethical principles, to determine ethical standards in theory and in practice, and to offer how ethical dilemmas faced by public authorities might be resolved. In other terms, this paper explores some situations associated with ethics in criminal justice and provides the context for the solving of ethical issues.

The Concept of Ethics

Ethics is defined as moral philosophy that is concerned with the study of how we ought to live. It includes making moral judgments about what is good or bad regarding person’s actions and conduct. Ethics suggests proper moral choices, when the person is uncertain about how to act in certain situation. Critical ethics training promotes the development of analytical and reasoning skills, which are needed to take in the practical and theoretical aspects of the criminal justice system.



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The study of ethics develops the progress of mechanism that enhances ethical decision making. The criminal justice system incorporates professionals, who exercise authority over citizens. In some cases, they are authorized to use force against the suspected person. Therefore, these professionals must be aware of ethical standards and follow them during the performance of their duties. Moreover, ethical principles should be of crucial importance in decisions involving force and due process since criminal justice professionals may be tempted to abuse their official duties. The reports of criminal cases described below will show how public officers sometimes fail to make coordinate decisions, or deliberately act unethically in the prosecution of their duties (Pollock, 2010).

The first case describes police brutality in New Orleans. In 1990, Adolph Archie was blamed for the murder of a white police officer. Officers, who were accompanying the injured Archie, decided not to take him to the hospital. They brought him to the police station, where the killed officer had worked. Archie fell on the floor in consequence of a scuffle. However, the sergeant denied seeing this event. Moreover, he ordered to clean up the blood stains on the floor. When Archie got medical treatment, it emerged that he had been beaten. The X- rays of his injuries disappeared without leaving a trace. Thereafter, conclusion was made that his death was due to allergic response to iodine. In 1993, the fact of Archie’s violent death was proven.

The police code of silence was supported by the police representatives of the department. As a result, no one of those police officers has been prosecuted to the fullest extend of the law.

The next case is also associated with criminal negligence in handling the defendant’s affairs. In 2001, Michael Ray Graham was freed after fourteen years of incarceration. All charges against him had been dismissed due to the lack of reliable proof. As compensation Michael got only a check for ticket to home. The above mentioned cases are a result of prosecutorial misconduct, which often occurs in the criminal justice system (Banks, 2004).

Normative Ethics

Normative ethics theories define morally right or wrong standards of conduct. Ethics as a science generalizes and systematizes principles and moral norms. It also promotes the development of moral ideas, which, in turn, facilitate the moral improvement of society and individuals. Ethics makes a great contribution to the social and economic progress of the society. Representatives of ethical relativism claim that ethic standards of conduct may vary to some extend in different societies. Taking account of this fact, it becomes clear why ethical decisions should be made on each separate situation. Advocates of ethical absolutism state that the set of common ethical standards should be applied to all societies. Nevertheless, everyone is caught in ethical dilemmas and issues in between times. Public authorities face ethical questions in their daily professional lives. That is why the applicability of ethics to the criminal justice system is considered to be incontestable fact (Prenzler, 2009).

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Moral Principles of Justice

The most important requirement for the activity of judicial power is justice. Society and each person need the court of judiciary that stands on the side of truth, actively protects it and expresses in its decisions. Justice is highly valued, especially, when it is the question of criminal proceedings involving crime and punishment. Unfair trial may cause the great harm to both the individual and the society.

The judiciary is considered as being fair, when it practices the law recognized by the community, ascertains the truth and takes decisions in accordance with the ethics. Fair trial is the court, where the guilty party is reasonably subjected to the deserved punishment, and the blameless is necessarily justified. The requirement for the judiciary to be fair does not belong only to its final decision, but to all of its activities from the moment, when the case goes into the disposal of the trial. Biased court can not deliver justice. It distorts the idea of justice and can turn into instrument of abuse (Souryal, 2011).

Code of Ethics and Policing

In our time, the cases of police brutality and police violence become frequent events of everyday life. That is why the study of ethics in policing should hold a prominent place. According to law enforcement code of ethics, all police officers should accept the ethical obligations of their position. They must observe and obey the highest norms of professional policing.

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An enforcement officer is an official advocate of government. He should be dependable to represent the law. His duties and powers are defined by the statute. The police officer shall serve the community, protect the innocent, defend citizens’ lives and property, keep the peace and ensure the equality and justice. All law-enforcement officers must carry out their duties impartially, without special attachment or favor and without relation to religion, political convictions, race, status or sex.  All citizens must be equally treated (Pollock, 2012).

Law-enforcement officer can not allow personal feelings (friendship or hatred) to affect professional conduct. Law advocates must strive to collaboration with public. The officer takes into account the surrounding circumstances and follows the principle of reasonableness while determining whether any justifiable actions must be taken. Law-enforcement officer shall never make use of unnecessary force or brutality. It may be used only after persuasion has been found to be ineffective.

If the events or information that a police officer has seen and heard are of confidential nature, he should keep an oath of secrecy unless the legal provision demands otherwise. A police officer can not divulge a secret as every member of the public has a right to privacy. Neither law-enforcement officer can be engaged in corruption acts nor can he approve such acts to be committed by other officers.

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 Police officers should avoid the situations that might dent the reputation of the law enforcement agency. Law-enforcement officer can not take any bribe in the form of gifts, subscriptions or promises that may be interpreted as a corrupt payment. Police officers can not make use of their official status. They can collaborate with the legally authorized agencies and their advocates.

Since every police officer is responsible for his own level of professional performance and competence, he should take any opportunity to improve it. Through learning, an officer acquires the knowledge that is essential for the efficient discharge of duty. A police officers’ conduct must be exemplary both during the performance of their duties and while they are off duty (Siegel, 2008).

Ethical and Moral Requirements for Judge

Jurisdiction is the most reliable and civilized way to resolve the conflicts arising in the society. According to Article 6 of the European Convention, every person or citizen has the right to a fair trial. Entity that administers justice is a judge. He must meet the highest ethical standards. The judiciary must be competent. Competence can be described in one of its values as a high professionalism of prosecutor, the profound knowledge of the law and the requirements of professional ethics, the steady adherence to them, the ability to understand the varying and sometimes complex and confusing situations. Each judge must be a high-caliber professional as trial is a crucial stage of the criminal process, where the administration of justice occurs.

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The prosecutor is also obliged to ensure the strict observance of the law and the ethical standards. He should not show his likes or dislikes in relation to any of the trial participants, for example, to be attentive to the victim and to ignore the appeal or application of the defendant.  The judge must create an atmosphere of procedural equality of the parties in court.

Judicial ethics defines the behavioral norms and relationships within a lawsuit between the parties and participants of the process dealing with the specific cases. Since the judge shapes people’ future, the society imposes heavy demands on his morality. The code of judicial ethics is the rules of professional conduct and the outside activities of a judge. Presentation of the extremely high requirements for judges on the moral and ethical standards should strengthen fair and honest judiciary, which main objective is the protection of the society and the citizens’ rights (Alavudeen, Rahman, Jayakumaran, 2008).

Code of Juridical Ethics

Personal code of judicial conduct is supported by ethical canons. These regulations are the principles that no one can dispute:

  1. A judge must conduct himself properly in providing his judicial functions.
  2. A judge can not be engaged in activities, which may impede his juridical functions or negatively influence confidence in their independence.
  3. A judge shall provide fair trial and ensure impartial administration of justice.
  4. A judge shall escape any conflict of interest.
  5. A judge shall be a man of probity; he must conduct himself in accordance with his office, thereby strengthening public confidence in the judiciary.
  6. A judge shall not directly or indirectly take any advantage that can be perceived as determination to affect the discharge of his judicial function.
  7. A judge shall maintain the confidentiality of conclusions as he is under the seal of secrecy.
  8. A judge shall conduct himself assiduously in the exercise of his authority and shall give mind wholly to professional occupation.
  9. A judge shall improve his knowledge and develop his personal qualities and skills needed for judicial office.
  10. A judge must perform all judicial duties in a proper manner and in due course.
  11. A judge shall remain courteous attitude towards all parties and members of the public.
  12. A judge must enhance his alertness in controlling the manner of witness questioning and provide the right of equal protection of the law.
  13. A judge shall avoid any comments or a course of action, which are considered to be of racist or sexist nature.
  14. A judge shall realize his freedom of expression in a manner that is compliant with his office and that does not influence judicial independence.
  15. A judge shall not make comment on pending case, as well as express views, which can undermine the authority of the court.
  16. A judge shall not exercise any extra-judicial duty that is inconsistent with his judicial performance or that may influence his impartiality and independence.
  17. A judge shall not be engaged in politics.

The principles set in the Code of juridical ethics shall serve as guidelines on the crucial ethical standards required of judges in the discharge of their duties (Souryal, 2011).

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Ethical and Moral Requirements for Attorney

Attorney should take care of the security and stability of relationships among people, even when they are not at all satisfied with the current order. The ethical problem that may come into being lies in the fact that the attorney possesses a specialized knowledge and the exclusive access to this knowledge. He may be tempted to use them for personal gain at the expense of the population.

Attorney’s profession is based on the developed internal control over words, actions and intentions of their clients. Lawyer enters into a complex relationship with the courts, law enforcement and other government agencies, organizations and citizens, while protecting the rights of his clients, attorney-client relationship is based on very confidential communication.

Professional ethics helps attorney in providing trust-based relations with clients due to advocate’s secrets. It protects the attorney from the temptations and seductions, caused by independence and certain closeness of the profession. Professional ethics helps to regulate the attorney relations with the court authorities, the media, colleagues, the legal community, the public and other organizations. It supports the authority of the legal profession by demonstrating community the thoroughness and clarity of its ethical principles and rules, as well as systems monitoring them (Braswell, McCarthy, McCarthy, 2012)

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Ethical principles are guidelines for solving a particular issue, a problem, the choice of a line of conduct or behavior of the client. These guidelines are necessary because it is impossible to foresee in advance all life situations. An attorney in every situation and every time shall clearly justify his point of view, behavior and intentions.

The main purpose of the legal profession is the rendering legal aid to those, who need it - individuals, organizations, public authorities and public agencies. A lawyer shall render assistance being guided by the interests of a client. However, the clients, who pay for the work of the attorney, may require him to accomplish unethical acts, such as calling a false witness to examination in court. This action is not only unethical, it is illegal. Therefore, lawyer must refuse a client basing his refusal on the requirements of the law.

In another case, the client may require the attorney to humiliate a defendant or his counsel in court. The law does not expressly prohibit such actions. That is why the attorney’s refusal in the meeting of client’s requirements should be based on the principles of professional ethics: the principle of respect for colleagues, the principle of respect for the court and the principle of humanity and respect for the human person.

Another moral problem may occur, when the client lies for some reason hiding facts and information from the attorney. In this case, it is advisable to use special methods of communication in order to get the needed information from the client. If that fails, the attorney should openly express his disbelief and explain to the client possible consequences.

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Another moral issue that attorneys may face with is the problem of maintaining their independence and objectivity. Lawyers are often identified with the client and his case by public opinion and the authorities. If the client’s case causes aggression, the attorney and his family will be at risk. This is attributed to the transfer of negative characteristics of the client and his case to his lawyer. Sometimes, the direct threats of force may be applied to the attorney. An attorney can get under the pressure of the authorities and the public, especially, if he protects the interests of the persons deprived of liberty.

Another ethical dilemma can go before an attorney. He, as any other person, may have his own interests, for example, the desire to grow rich or to become famous. The standards of professional ethics require the lawyer to protect the client without being influenced by his own interests and desires (Alavudeen, Rahman, Jayakumaran, 2008).

Attorney’ Code of Ethics

The Code establishes the principles and standards, and the norms of conduct that the attorney shall follow on a permanent basis in order to ensure the dignity of the legal profession. These principles and norms must be an integral part of the attorney’s own belief.

  1. An attorney shall defend the client’s interests, resorting only to means accordant to law. He shall preserve his independence while representing a client.
  2. An attorney shall not be engaged in activities that are incompatible with the legal profession and can besmirch his reputation.
  3. An attorney shall not rely on persons, who are not authorized to practice law.
  4. An attorney shall expand the scope of activity only by using the tools that are accordant with ethical principles and norms.
  5. An attorney shall ensure the confidentiality of information acquired from a client. He must determine what information the client wants to be maintained as the advocate secret. An attorney shall not disclose this information until the case termination.
  6. Allegiance to the client is the attorney’s fundamental duty, which is more important than attorney’s own interests.
  7. An attorney shall do his best in order to render the client’s assistance immediately. If the attorney is approached by too many clients at that time, he should allocate them to other attorneys.
  8. An attorney may refuse legal assistance only for important reasons, such as lack of knowledge in particular issue or overload.
  9. An attorney, who provides legal service to two or more parties, should cancel the assistance of either of them in case of dispute between them associated with the rendered service. In case of assistance cancellation, the attorney shall represent the client no more than thirty days from the cancellation date.
  10. In the course of representation, an attorney can not come into contact with the counter party without client’s approval.
  11. An attorney shall not accept the invitation of the counter party to represent it until the termination of the proceedings.

Judicial ethics is a field of legal ethics that explores the complex of moral prohibitions and permits (Souryal, 20011). It investigates the professional ethics of a judge, an attorney and other professionals of the criminal justice system. The majority of legal and moral responsibility rests with the judge, who should ensure administration of justice in compliance with laws and moral principles. A judge comes into moral relations with all participants involved in proceedings while managing the court sitting. A judge protects the public interest on behalf of the state and, at the same time, takes care of the legitimate interests and dignity of the defendant. All participants must comply with moral norms.

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The trial court usually ends up with a sentence. The sentence is the most important decision in the case and it should meet the highest requirements of law and morality, legality, validity, motivation, credibility and fairness. Judicial ethics explores the provisions of the existing legislation, identifies where it does not work, and offers appropriate recommendations based on the general principles of ethics and legal practice data.


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