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The criminal justice system includes professionals that include attorneys, law enforcement officials, psychologists, judges and other experts. The system relies on myriad forms of communication, and the types of communication a specific criminal justice worker will use depends on her role in the system, specific job duties and similar factors.
Narratives and Reports
Narrative writing is a daily job duty for many police officers, who must write clear reports detailing their interactions with and arrest of suspects. These reports are frequently used to establish a time line and maintain information about how and why an officer arrested someone. In most cases, though, reports are not admissible as evidence of how a suspect behaved, and are considered hearsay. Instead, reports are more likely to be used as a starting point for investigations.
Legal Pleadings and Citations
Legal pleadings are formal pieces of writing submitted to the court, such as motions for summary judgment and complaints for damages. The court may also evaluate formal legal citations, such as tickets written by police officers. These documents provide the court with information it needs to make a decision about criminal defendants. Such documents may also be used in civil cases. For example, when a former criminal defendant sues a police officer, he will submit a complaint for damages to initiate the case. Such a complaint must be written by either a lawyer or the defendant himself.
A judicial order is a document written by a judge that renders a decision about a case. For example, a judge might issue an order outlining how discovery -- the process of gathering evidence -- might proceed in a civil case. When a judge is tasked with issuing a verdict in a case, the verdict usually comes in the form of a judicial order. Most orders outline the legal rationale for the judge's decision, and may also outline the basic facts of the case.
Studies and Research
The criminal justice system is a massive institution that includes courts, jails and even mental health facilities. Consequently, many criminal justice workers are interested in studying the system to obtain various information. Studies on sentencing, the causes of criminal behavior, proper police protocol and the demographics of those involved in the criminal justice system are all common. Most studies are highly formal and academic, and are typically overseen by academics or by criminal justice experts with years of experience in the field.
As in any other profession, criminal justice professionals routinely draft informal communications, such as emails to police officers or lawyers. When these emails are between government officials, they are often open records subject to public review. Consequently, criminal justice workers must often write their emails as if they will be read by a third party, since they may be.
- Police: How to Write Better Police Reports
- EvidenceProfBlog: Call The Police: Seventh Circuit Explains Rationale(s) For Excluding Police Reports In Criminal Cases Under Rule 803(8)(B)
- Law.com: Pleading
- The Law Dictionary: What is Judicial Order?
- Office of Economic and Demographic Research: Criminal Justice Reports
- Coates' Canons: Email as Public Record -- Five Things You Should Know
Van Thompson is an attorney and writer. A former martial arts instructor, he holds bachelor's degrees in music and computer science from Westchester University, and a juris doctor from Georgia State University. He is the recipient of numerous writing awards, including a 2009 CALI Legal Writing Award.