Criminal Justice System Law and Legal Definition

Criminal justice system refers to the collective institutions through which an accused offender passes until the accusations have been disposed of or the assessed punishment concluded. The criminal justice system consists of three main parts: (1) law enforcement (police, sheriffs, marshals); (2) adjudication (courts which include judges, prosecutors, defense lawyers); and (3) corrections (prison officials, probation officers, and parole officers). In a criminal justice system, these distinct agencies operate together under the rule of law and are the principal means of maintaining the rule of law within society.

Normally, the first contact an offender has with the criminal justice system is through police who investigates a suspected wrong-doing and make an arrest. Next is the court, where disputes are settled and justice is administered. In the U.S. guilt or innocence is decided through the adversarial system. If the accused is found guilty s/he turned over to the correctional authorities from the court system.

Criminal justice system is also termed as law-enforcement system.