Discussion Questions, Questionnaire Example

  1. The relevance of Dickinson v US was simply a modern-day affirmation of separation of Church and State. The case revolved around a Jehovah’s Witness, and a Minister in his faith, and his attempts to be exempted from the draft. The man worked five hours a week as a handyman, but was otherwise in the employ of his nationally-recognized church. Initially it took the more originalist view of completely separating Church and State, and forcing the man into the draft. This decision, however, was reversed in a later decision–essentially taking the opinion of Thomas Jefferson–that church and state do not have to be separate, but rather treated equally under the law.
  2. The Fourth Amendment is perhaps the Amendment that many Americans are becoming more and more concerned about. The Amendment, which protects from an “unreasonable search and seizure”, has been in the news quite frequently. The wiretaps allowed by the Patriot Act under President Bush was only the beginning–once NSA whistleblower Edward Snowden exposed the average American to the extent to which they were being monitored, many are now hesitant to make their feelings publically known.
  3. Material evidence is evidence that is used to support another piece of evidence–usually inferences made from the crime scene, or type of crime. It is usually physical and used to show how or why a crime was committed. Relevant evidence is any evidence that is used to directly prove a fact brought up, or likewise to directly refute a claim.
  4. Alford and nolo contendere pleas carry with them a lot of weight when it comes to criminal justice, and the prosecution in general. Truly a nolo contendere plea is broader, and in fact incorporates an Alford plea. A nolo contendere plea is when a defendant admits that either through sheer evidence or otherwise, they have no legal ground to stand on. When this is used as a guilty plea, a nolo contendere plea can greatly affect sentencing–especially the way the convicted carried himself or herself in front of the judge. On the other hand, an Alford plea–which is a specific type of nolo contendere plea–says the same things as nolo contendere, but maintains innocence. Vey often these pleas lead to plea bargains, as the Prosecutor is generally swamped, and quick to close a case in his or her favor without a lengthy trial.
  5. A simple not guilty plea implies no guilt at all on the part of the accused. They are saying they are in no way guilty of the charges pressed against them, and are completely free from blame. This differs from not guilty by reason of affirmative defense greatly. Generally a not guilty by reason of affirmative defense plea is the accused saying that they did indeed commit the crime they are accused of, however there was a legally justifiable reason they did so. Self-defense is often associated with this plea and its implications.
  6. The elements of the criminal justice process include law enforcement, the courts, and corrections. Each are unique, and equally important in their own ways. Law enforcement includes federal or state law enforcement, and are in charge of investigation and detention. The courts are obviously where the decision of guilt or not is made–consisting of adversarial lawyers, a judge, and jury. Corrections incorporates the entire US state and federal prison systems, and are in charge of detention and rehabilitation of offenders.