Citizen Police Academy
Criminal Justice System
High School Liaison Officer
Traffic Safety & Law
How does a police officer obtain a search or arrest warrant? What happens when someone is arrested for a DUI? What are the various stages of a trial? Christine Bishop, Assistant State's Attorney, answered these questions and more as she provided us with an excellent overview of how the criminal justice system really works. The Assistant District Attorneys work closely with police officers from the onset of a case to its conclusion. They advise police as to the types of evidence needed to make a case, and they work with them once the case goes to trial. Christine described the different divisions of the State's Attorney's Office and the types of cases each division handles. She also explained sentencing guidelines and how they differ depending on the charge.
Next, Julie Pawl of NICASA explained that teens who are arrested can sometimes opt out of going through the regular criminal justice system by agreeing to go through Teen Court instead. To go this route, the offender must meet several requirements: He or she must be a first time offender between 10-18 years of age, admit guilt, and have parental consent to go through the program. The offender then goes before a panel which consists of other teens and an adult advisor. The panel listens to the facts of the case, asks questions, and then metes out punishment. Since the goal is to encourage the offender to change his/her behavior to avoid future trouble, punishment generally involves community service and/or attendance at an appropriate class (such as a class about dangers of alcohol if the charge is underage drinking). If the teen complies and completes all requirements, the charge remains off his/her permanent record. If the teen doesn't meet all requirements, his or her case is returned to the regular criminal justice system.
Officer Jack Metcalf, High School Liaison Officer, spoke next about his responsibilities to the high school and its students. He wears many hats at the school: police officer, school official, authoritarian, mentor. He's at both high schools daily and attends many of the extracurricular events, so he gets to know the students, stays abreast of what's going on, and knows what to keep an eye out for. He said an advantage of having a police presence at the school is that kids get to know him as well, and feel more comfortable turning to him if there is a problem.
To close the night, Officer Phil Mazur returned to go a bit more in-depth about traffic safety and laws. He went over some of the less commonly remembered laws and mistakes drivers often make. Officer Mazur also is an accident reconstructionist, and he explained what the reconstructionists do when called to the scene of a criticial or fatal accident.
A lot of ground was covered tonight, but it was worth it to learn more about how the criminal justice system actually works. Next week we'll learn about the justice system on a local level, as well as the D.A.R.E. program and community service officers.