liberal decisions | Definition

Doc's CJ Glossary by Adam J. McKee


Course: Introduction

In the criminal justice context, a Court’s liberal decision can be viewed as upholding civil rights over public order.

Contrast with conservative decisions

In the criminal justice system, the term liberal decision typically refers to a court ruling that prioritizes the protection of individual rights and civil liberties over maintaining public order and safety. This approach is rooted in the Due Process Model of the criminal justice system, which emphasizes the importance of ensuring that the rights of the accused are protected throughout the criminal justice process.

In contrast to the Crime Control Model, which emphasizes crime suppression and control as the top priority, the Due Process Model is focused on ensuring that individuals are treated fairly and justly throughout the criminal justice process. This means that the government must follow established legal procedures and respect the rights of the accused, even if this means that a criminal suspect may go free due to a lack of evidence or other factors.

A liberal decision in the criminal justice context might involve striking down a law or policy that is deemed to be unconstitutional or that violates the rights of individuals. For example, a court might rule that a police search was conducted without a warrant and therefore violated the Fourth Amendment’s protection against unreasonable searches and seizures. Alternatively, a court might overturn a conviction or sentence that was based on evidence that was obtained through coercion or other illegal means.

In addition to protecting individual rights and civil liberties, a liberal decision in the criminal justice context might also involve promoting social justice and addressing systemic inequalities. For example, a court might rule that a particular sentencing policy or practice disproportionately affects members of certain racial or ethnic groups and is, therefore, unconstitutional.

Critics of liberal decisions in the criminal justice system argue that they prioritize individual rights over public safety and can lead to lenient sentences for dangerous criminals. However, advocates of the Due Process Model argue that protecting the rights of the accused is critical to maintaining a fair and just criminal justice system and that a focus on public safety at the expense of individual rights can lead to arbitrary and unjust outcomes.

[ Glossary ]

Last Modified: 04/08/2023


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