Why Plagiarism Undermines Criminal Justice, Research Paper Example

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Research Paper

Abstract

This is an assessment of the nature of plagiarism as it relates to the criminal justice system.  Plagiarism reaches the highest ranks of the criminal justice system.  Practitioners of plagiarism include many participants of the legal system. This essay takes into account ethical implications as well as legal ramifications of plagiarism. It concludes that the act of plagiarism is as much a moral hazard as it can be a criminal act.

Keywords:  plagiarism, criminal justice system,

Underlying in the notion of the Criminal Justice system is the concept of integrity and virtue. It can get complicated when debating what is morally right or wrong, but in just taking the name at face value, criminal justice brings to question, what is just? Plagiarism has long been an issue of the academic community as well as the news and publishing industry.  Some issues that arise when assessing the relationship between plagiarism and the Criminal Justice system are of great moral concern, but many are legal as well. Understanding the difference between a simple act of laziness or convenience like turning in someone else work as your own, verses committing a felony offense like forgery can be clear cut, but some instances of plagiarism aren’t as easily defined.  The following will show how many cases of plagiarism, as they relate to the criminal justice system, are as a vague as they are blatant abuses of power and violations of the law.

In the academic world plagiarism is most commonly the act of a student peddling off the work of another as their own, or misquoting or wrongly citing a source. In the legal system, plagiarism can take on an entirely different form. For example, a student cadet training to be an officer can plagiarize a written requirement for their officer exam resulting in passing and becoming a qualified badge wearing, gun holding officer of the law. This form of plagiarism is very similar to what’s common in academia; it may hold a more severe consequence, since the officer is responsible for knowing the law as well protecting the lives and safety of the citizens he is sworn to protect, but it’s still basically on the same level. The more complex form of plagiarism comes in the form dealing with legal cases. For example, if that same officer gets into the habit of cutting corners when filing his police reports by using previous reports he has written and just filling in specific details to make scenarios fit. While not a traditional form of plagiarism, this simple act of convenience could adversely influence the lives of many people this officer encounters.

A serious area in which plagiarism can have an adverse effect on the Criminal Justice system is in the realm of legal research. Very often, court cases are filed and documented in scholarly journals and textbooks. In many cases, the law itself is actually written in the court through precedence set from trial judgments, but when those trials are complete, legal essay are written, and published citing those trials, many of those legal essays are plagiarized or misquoted. This can be looked at as not being very serious, but the question is what happens to those legal essays? Who really reads a legal dissertation published by a law student?

In a recent article titled, On plagiarism in the Supreme Court, published by the University of the Philippines College of Law Faculty, a reporter claimed the Supreme Court was in violation of plagiarism when a supreme court judge copied the writings of legal writers and presented the as his own words in a written judgment of a case (Stevens, 2011).  What the judge did was a blatant act of plagiarism, but once he laid down the judgment the violation became the responsibility of the Philippine Supreme Court as well. To add insult to injury the cases resulted in the death of thousands of people over the course of 7 years while they were waiting to take the case to trial. While the Philippines have their own legal system, it would not be wise to assume this type situation can happen, or hasn’t happened in the U.S.

While the main concern of plagiarism in academia is that truthful accounting of research is taken, in regards to criminal justice in many situations the concern could be acquiring truthful accounts of evidence. When plagiarism corrupts evidence, it corrupts the criminal justice system and its processes; even in regards to just research, it can impact lives of all parties involved. Legal officials can lose their jobs and citizens can lose their liberties and their lives. In a U.S. News Report titled, “The CSI Effect: On TV, it’s all slam-dunk evidence and quick convictions. Now juries expect the same thing–and that’s a big problem,” Kit R. Roane did a report on how a forensic lab failed to properly match lab samples on DNA tests, and transposed the information of one sample onto another resulting in a ballistics test where a murder slug was match with the wrong test gun (2010). When the credentials of the forensic officers was put into question, their certifications were traced to the American College of Forensic Examiners International, where the founder Robert O’Block had actually recently been fired for plagiarizing forensic credentials. Human error exists, even in forensic cases; but in this case there is no telling how many innocent people were convicted of crimes they didn’t commit based on the abuse of position held by these individuals.

The U.S. News report is a perfect example of how plagiarism is as much an issue of legality as it is a moral concern.  Taking the low road is easy and cutting corners is more convenient, but where are the boundaries? Where is the line between simple laziness and criminal offense, immorality and felony? In academic institutions, there are serious consequences if a student is caught cheating, but nothing legal, and in many cases, they can still be allowed to graduate. Likewise, in the business world, falsifying one’s resume is common practice, and falsifying documents like doctor’s notes, certifications, or diplomas is not treated with nearly as much severity as distributing counterfeit bills. The consequences are as much to blame as the offenders themselves. With the convenience of technology like Photoshop, copy and paste word processors, and now even online-certified signatures, it’s become even more difficult to catch people looking to falsify accredited materials. Plagiarism is not viewed in the same light with most fraudulent activity recognized as criminal by society. The problem is that when a legal official falsifies their resume, or forges a signature on a warrant, or a judge copies and pastes sections of a law student’s dissertation as part of their judgment, these offenses have egregious consequences. Perhaps the worst consequences of these plagiarist acts are that the offenders get way with them, feeding their curiosity to see what they can do next.

Conclusion

In sum, while plagiarism is legal in academia, it holds a different type of weight when it comes to the Criminal Justice system. It border along the lines of legal offenses such as copyright infringement and lying under oath. If it finds its way into the court room, or in case reports filed by law officers the results could be dire from violating the rights of one specific individual to demolishing the integrity of the court for decades of cases to come. It’s fare to say the problems surrounding plagiarism extends far beyond just the classroom.

References

Bachman, R., & Schutt, R. K. (2010). The practice of research in criminology and criminal justice. (4th ed., p. 560). SAGE.

Roane, K. R. (2010). The CSI effect on TV, it’s all slam-dunk evidence and quick convictions. now juries expect the same thing–and that’s a big problem. U.S.News, Retrieved from http://www.law.yale.edu/documents/pdf/Alumni_Affairs/Stith_Roane_The_CSI_Effect_US_News_and_World_Report.pdf

Stevens, D. J. (2011). Media and criminal justice: The CSI effect. (p. 380). Jones & Bartlett Learning.

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