The Practices of Criminal Justice System in Woodrow Wilson's Case
Criminal justice officials such as police officers, district attorneys, correctional officers and even judges have their words and actions placed under a microscope for scrutiny by society. They are held to a higher standard, therefore; their actions and statements are speculated and judged. The criminal justice professionals working directly with the public must meet the previously mentioned higher standards all while staying true to their morals and making sound ethical decisions. Ethical values or integrity are vital to necessary human conduct. It is essential that law enforcement officers possess strong ethical values (i.e., concern for the safety and well-being of others, understand that equality is implemented amongst all people and that all individuals not only respect but comply with the laws.
Ethical dilemmas are inevitable; they present themselves into the system often. At every level in the criminal justice field, professionals are utilizing discretion when deciding the fate, safety, and security of an individual. At times laws, regulations, practices, and policies form divergences and alter the basis in which judgments are made, placing the criminal justice professional in an ethical dilemma.
Judges serve a crucial role in our criminal justice system as they provide the verdict and the sentencing for the individual. In this case, the defendant, Woodrow Wilson, is charged with armed robbery. Woodrow Wilson entered a liquor store, hit the store over the head with a gun and commanded cash. The judge, Judge Jeffery Owens is faced with an ethical dilemma. The evidence presented was video surveillance, eyewitness testimony, and money after Mr. Wilson was apprehended; all strong evidence which proves Mr. Wilson guilty.
Nonetheless, the defendant, Mr. Woodrow Wilson suffers from mental health issues. These mental health issues are responsible for Wilson committing the armed robbery and even violent outbursts in the past. Regrettably, Judge Owens is cognitive the state correctional prison cannot provide the necessary support for Wilson’s mental problems and addiction. The county jail only accepts inmates sentenced 18 months or less, received a federal grant to establish a program designed to help inmates with mental health and addiction; two that would be very beneficial to the defendant.
Judge Jeffery Owens is faced with the ethical dilemma on which sentence to give to Woodrow Wilson. Sentencing guidelines state Mr. Wilson should be sent to the state prison, however; with Mr. Wilson’s mental state the county jail would be beneficial because he can receive the treatment he needs (Prins, 2014). Judge Owens want to sentence Mr. Wilson to the maximum convicted required according to the guidelines and be able to provide with the proper treatment as well. If Mr. Wilson does not receive mental health treatment, he will end up back in the system time and time again. His mental health disables him from being able to be correctly rehabilitated into society; which the county jail can assist with.
The judge must consider both outcomes. If he sentences Woodrow Wilson to the state facility, he won’t receive the treatment he needs, which will result in his time in jail not being profitable (Prins, 2014). As previously stated, if the defendant’s mental state is not addressed, there is a very high chance he will return in the future due to not being correctly rehabilitated into society. The goal of the justice system is to not only uphold the law but to rehabilitate as well. Without the treatment, Wilson will be back in court, go to prison and then released and it will become a vicious cycle. If Judge Owens sends Wilson to the county jail, he will only do up to 18 months, but he will receive the treatment that he desperately needs for his mental health. Violating the sentencing guidelines will cause Judge Jeffery Owens great turmoil as the public will be expecting maximum sentencing for Wilson.
Not every case is black and white, and not every situation is the same. All cases are different, therefore; Judges are appointed to use their discretion for each case. The right ethical decision that Judge Jeffery Owens should make is sentencing Mr. Woodrow Wilson to the maximum sentence under the sentencing guidelines, but when 18 months are remaining, he should be transferred to the county facility and start treatment immediately. This sentencing decision allows Mr. Wilson to be sentenced appropriately, won’t place Judge Owens under public scrutiny, and will enable Wilson to receive adequate treatment and rehabilitation services before his release.
The ethical foundation for my decision is from the ethical theory, deontology. Immanuel Kant founded deontology. Kant suggested that anything that makes something right or wrong typically is conformed to a rational duty discoverable by reason (Pojman et al. 2015). Deontology is based around fulfilling specific responsibilities towards either oneself or other individuals. A person, Judge Jeffery for instance, would make a decision to best reflect his duties and responsibilities as a judge. Moreover, it places the focus on the consequences of an individual’s actions and beliefs. It was Judge Jeffery Owens duty to sentence Woodrow Wilson in compliance with the sentencing guidelines and sentence him to at least five years for his crimes (Pojam et al., 2015).
To conclude, Judge Jeffery Owens made the decision based on his responsibility to the inmate’s well-being as well as the community. Judge Owens was mindful that the defendant’s current mental state would result in him being a repeat offender if he was not correctly rehabilitated before his release. Once he was released, Mr. Wilson would be a danger to not only himself but society as well (Pojman et al. 2015). It is evident from his decision that Judge Owens is in connection with the deontology ethical theory and his moral responsibility as a judge to protect the community and the inmate.
The District Attorney
Jessica was recently elected district attorney. Her campaign was both conservative and successful. Her primary goal was to implement a policy solving the incumbent’s inability or unwillingness to prosecute officer misconduct with criminal charges. The chief of police not supporting her campaign is the beginning of an ethical dilemma. The chief feels as if the police misconduct can be taken care of internally, through termination, demotion, and suspension of employment (Kochel et al. 2013).
Furthermore, the chief believed if civilians had an issue with law enforcement misconduct they could sue the officer in civil court. But, the district attorney wants to implement prosecution of the officers with criminal charges. Jessica has started to take action which has cause a dispute amongst the officers, the chief of police, and herself. In turn, to be spiteful, the police officers have responded by intentionally losing criminal cases and are choosing to not cooperate with her.
Despite the lack of support from other law enforcement officials, the public has supported her conservative campaign, and she should continue with prosecuting officers for misconduct. Jessica also knows she cannot work without the police officer’s cooperation, and they won’t start to cooperate until she stops the prosecution (Kochel et al. 2013). Jessica plans to continue with her campaign with the support of the public and prosecute officers engaging in misconduct, while simultaneously getting the officers to cooperate with her.
The first options consequences result in rebellion and lack of cooperation from the police force which means more intentionally lost criminal cases. One can infer this is problematic because felons will be released and not prosecuted, placing society at risk. Moreover, civilian tax dollars are being wasted because criminals are being arrested with no outcomes to their cases. In the second option, discontinuing prosecuting officers, she won’t have the community backing her because she lost their trust (Sollie and Euwema, 2017). Reversing her decision to prosecute officers’ misconduct with the purpose of gaining police support and cooperation (Sollie and Euwema, 2017) will affect her reputation within the community and even the police force because she has been deemed untrustworthy.
Jessica should address the dilemma with a different approach. She should include other law enforcement officers in the decision-making process. There should be a baseline of what constitutes an officer meeting the threshold for prosecution and which ones should result with internal consequences only. This could be decided when Jessica and a police force representative meet with the chief of police to determine what the baseline of offenses a should be prosecuted and which should be reproved through administrative action (Kadesh et al. 2016). Their decision should be communicated through a meeting or series of meetings with the other officers. This allows all of the officials to be on the same page. Following the meeting, each officer should sign a document stating they agree to the agreed upon terms and conditions. Jessica involving the police force allows for transparency, in turn, will motivate the police to cooperate and help in the court cases.
The utilitarianism theory provides the ethical bases for this decision (Broad, 2014). This theory indicates the best choice is the one that maximizes utility with the community. This decision should be based on how harmful or helpful the decision is for the majority, despite the cost of the action (Broad, 2014). Jessica making the conclusion I have recommended, she will continue with her conservative campaign, the public will back her still, and the force will be pleased she is not prosecuting every offense. Furthermore, the police force will be happy they were included in the decision-making progress. Most of the police force will have decided on a baseline of offenses that should be prosecuted, which should only be severe offenses (Broad, 2014). This decision will allow the police force to feel like their input and opinions matter and as if Jessica is working with them instead of against them. Administrative punishment over prosecution is still an option for police misconduct. This theory is also referred to as the ‘Greatest Happiness Principle’ because it places great emphasis on the happiness of the majority. Thus, the utilitarianism theory and the Greatest Happiness Principle will provide the most beneficial and civil decision all while producing maximum results for the majority (Broad, 2014).
Police officers enforce laws while using discretion in their decisions. The third ethical dilemma involved Scot, a rookie officer that is still in his probationary period. Being in the probationary period allows for Scot’s dismissal for any reason, and he is not entitled to a hearing nor a trial preceding his release. While the rookie officer was on duty, a driver violated a minor traffic violation, so Scot stops the car. While he is questioning the driver, it is evident the driver becomes anxious.
Consequently, the driver becoming anxious led to Scot becoming suspicious and asking the man to step out of his vehicle. Scot then searched the car. In doing so, Scot removed the keys from the ignition and used them to unlock the trunk. The driver was outraged and began yelling he did not give Scot permission to search his vehicle. While exploring the trunk, the officer discovered a clear, large, plastic bag containing thousands of pharmaceutical capsules. Following his discovery of the pills in the trunk, the driver of the car began to insist the tablets were not his. Scot did not have a search warrant and had just committed an illegal search.
Scot’s ethical dilemma is how he should proceed following the illegal search. While he did uncover thousands of pharmaceutical-type pills, which raises suspicion and warrant an arrest, he arrived at his discovery without a warrant. If Scot decided to proceed with the arrest, not only would he be immediately dismissed from his job, the case will be thrown out due to an illegal search. It is essential to note Scot understands the results of selling drugs and drug use. Letting the driver go, allows the driver to make money illegally possibly, drug users will still be supplied with their medications, and the community is at risk.
The scenario states Scot’s motivation is to arrest the driver, confiscate the pills all while not being dismissed from his job because of conducting an illegal search. Scot conducting an unlawful search without a court-ordered search warrant, the evidence is not legal, and it will be thrown out of a court case. Furthermore, the driver may say the pills are not his, leaving Scot without a leg to stand out, resulting in his dismissal from the force (Roseman, 2013). Because the evidence was collected illegally, it would not matter if the pills were, in fact, the drivers, the case would still be dismissed. Scot could also let the driver go without any negative repercussions, and Scot would be forced to live with questioning his moral compass (Roseman, 2013). Scot would have to live knowing this man has possibly harmful drugs in his possession, and he has no idea why this man is in possession of them, to begin with. It could lead to another overdose in the community and an increase in crime within the community, placing the community in grave danger.
Scot should arrest the man for the minor traffic violation and his anxious behavior. As an officer, it is your civic duty to serve and protect your community from individuals who commit those acts. Police officers must use a tremendous amount of discretion, but ultimately, they must remove criminals from society. After Scot takes the man in to be booked, he can debrief his supervisor that he suspects the man being involved in illegal activities due to his anxious behavior. Scot could request a court-ordered search warrant while the driver is being processed at the station (Roseman, 2013). After the search warrant is granted, Scot can conduct a legal search of the car, retrieve the pharmaceutical-type pills and evidence and provide it to his supervisor.
Moreover, this will be beneficial to the police as they won’t have to place a warrant out for his arrest because he will already be at the station for the traffic violation and suspicious agitation. This allows Scot to legally arrest the driver, search the vehicle legally, and will cease the possible distribution of the drug to the community. Also, Scot will not be released from the force due to an illegal search (Roseman, 2013).
Police officers have a tough task of balancing their moral compass with their job responsibilities and using ethical judgments while making decisions. The Virtue ethical model is the basis for this decision. The Virtue ethics also referred to as virtue theory places emphasis on the individual’s character as the critical component of the ethical choice versus the determination being based solely on the consequences. This theory specifies right vs. wrong is promotes from within and embodies the character of courage (Steele and Alvarez, 2016). This theory allows the individual to demonstrate compassion, temperance, and wisdom. With this theory, Scot will arrest the driver for the traffic violation and put in a request for a court-ordered search warrant, and then confiscate the capsules. Scot complying with the laws also is in his best interest because he probably won’t be released from his job during his probationary period (Steele and Alvarez, 2016).
Scot must use discretion that will influence the destiny of the driver all while keeping the community safe. As previously stated, not every case is black, and one, and the circumstances in each case are different. Scot must quickly plan and using the virtue theory would result in him arresting the driver and getting the search warrant. In the end, this keeps the driver off the streets even temporarily and prevents his dismissal from the force.
Every individual involved in the above scenarios faced very tough and demanding ethical dilemmas. We all are faced with moral decisions, without a clear and concise baseline for right versus wrong, especially criminal justice officials. Their decisions are based off laws and their use of discretion when protecting and serving, even if the choice is not ideal for themselves.
Cite this Essay
To export a reference to this article please select a referencing style below