As societies evolve from tribal communities to developed nations with international influence, the concepts of justice and the societal need for preventing and repairing wrong-doings must evolve at an equal, if not greater, pace in order to ensure the continuity of a society’s way of life. While the overall goals of various criminal justice systems in the world would appear to be similar if not the same, the development of the individual theories and practices in those systems of criminal justice tend to differ greatly based on a variety of societal, cultural and historical factors and influences. The United States of America, formerly a mesh of European colonials, was founded through the execution of its Constitution in 1789 after declaring independence in 1776 (CIA, 2011). The Russian Federation, formerly known as the Russian Soviet Federative Socialist Republic or the Soviet Union for short, was founded through the execution of its Constitution in 1993 after the fall of the Soviet Union in 1991 (CIA, 2011). The two nations were once rival superpowers, both with the abilities to have significant influence on events and interests on a worldwide scale, until the fall of the Soviet Union and its restructuring as the Russian Federation (Wikipedia: Superpower, 2011). While the United States of America has remained a federal republic with a strong democratic tradition (CIA, 2011), the transition from the Soviet Union to the Russian Federation saw the nation’s government transition from a socialist republic to a federation (CIA, 2011; Wikipedia: Socialist State, 2011; Wikipedia: Federation, 2011). In both nations the purposes of the criminal justice system are to deter, investigate and manage the influence of crimes against society and the state and both nations can trace the histories of their legal systems to concepts founded in the Roman Empire of a millennium past. This paper will seek to provide a comparative and contrasting analysis of the currently existing criminal justice systems in these two similar yet notably different nations.
History, Tradition and Models
The governments of the United States of America and the Russian Federation have a number of significant factors in common. Both nations have strong foundations in federalism with written constitutions and division of governmental powers between the centralized national governments and regional governments – states in the case of the United States of America and oblasts in the case of the Russian Federation (CIA, 2011). Both nations can trace the historical traditions of their criminal justice systems to the ideas and concepts found in the Roman Empire of a millennium past of codified law. The legal system of the United States of America follows the Common Legal Tradition that developed in nations and territories of the British Empire as the principle of Stare Decisis took on a greater influence than the codified Roman Law at its roots (Reichtel, 1999). In contrast, the legal system of the Russian Federation, while once dominated by the Socialist Legal Tradition based on Marxism-Leninism concepts, has migrated in the past two decades towards its Civil Legal Tradition roots (Reichtel, 1999; CIA, 2011). While both systems use codified law and legal precedent from previous court rulings to varying degrees, the criminal justice system of the United States of America places greater emphasis on the rights of the individual (U.S. Bill of Rights, 1789) where the system of criminal justice in the Russian Federation appears to place greater emphasis on the power of the state (Reichtel, 1999). While the Russian Federation’s constitution includes a number of civil and human rights provisions, observed inadequacies in their system of criminal justice have prevented historical consistency in their adherence to those provided rights (Curtis, 1996) that continued into this century with the trial of Ed Pope, an American businessman charged with spying in Russia who was denied a public trial and denied a trial by jury, openly convicted and then immediately pardoned by the president of the Russian Federation (Reichtel, 1999). While both nations may embody a conflict model of criminal justice where the content of criminal law is determined by those in power, these and other examples have led this researcher to believe that the crime control model, emphasizing the rights of society, holds more emphasis in the Russian Federation while the due process model, emphasizing the rights of the individual, is known and established in the United States of America.
Civil Rights and Procedural Safeguards
Both the Constitution of the United States of America and the Constitution of the Russian Federation provide for a number of civil rights and procedural safeguards within their respective systems of criminal justice. The constitutional laws of the United States of America provide for protections from unreasonable searches and seizures by government agents, protections from self-incrimination and double jeopardy, a fair and speedy public trial, a trial by jury, and protections from cruel and unusual punishment, among others (Gaines & Miller, 2010, pp. 417). The constitutional laws of the Russian Federation provide for similar protections including equality before the law among people, individual privacy, protections from torture, protections from the denial of judicial rights, and others (Cutis, 1996). The Russian Federation has been challenged for failure to fully and equally apply its codified civil rights in a number of cases including the trial of Ed Pope (Reichtel, 1999) and military actions in Chechnya (Curtis, 1996). Both nations prohibit criminal punishment without a trial (U.S. Bill of Rights, 1789; Curtis, 1996) and appear to protect individuals from “cruel or unusual” punishment in the United States of America (U.S. Bill of Rights, 1789) and similarly “brutal or humiliating” punishment in the Russian Federation (Curtis, 1996); yet the United States of America continues to allow the application of the death penalty in certain criminal cases while the Russian Federation agreed to eliminate its use of the death penalty by 1999 as a condition of admittance to the Council of Europe (Curtis, 1996). The criminal justice systems of both nations provide for an appropriate criminal defense including legal representation and allow criminal defendants to appeal their sentences to higher courts for judicial review (U.S. Constitution, 1787; U.S. Bill of Rights, 1789; Curtis, 1996). Both nations hold that a person is innocent until proven guilty, however, in some cases defendants are expected to prove their innocence in the Russian Federation where this is generally not expected in the United States of America (U.S. Constitution, 1787; Curtis, 1996).
While other aspects of the criminal justice systems in the United States of America and the Russian Federation have significant similarities, the models for law enforcement are vastly different. While law enforcement in the United States of America has moved from its patronage and spoils system of the Political Era and the crime control systems of the Reform Era into the modern Community Era (Gaines & Miller, 2010, pp. 105-107), law enforcement in the Russian Federation today holds many aspects common from the Political and Reform Eras of its American counterpart. Recent years have seen significant resentment among Russian citizens towards Russian law enforcement, specifically the Federal Security Service (FSB), who are seen as “spectacularly corrupt, inept and brutal police” with “confessions of paramilitary police officers about arrest quotas and police protection rackets” (Nemtsova, 2010, para. 1). Law enforcement in both countries appear to follow two of the basic roles of policing in enforcing laws and preventing crime while law enforcement in the United States of America goes further into preserving the peace and providing for community needs (Gaines & Miller, 2010, pp. 119-122). Whereas law enforcement in the United States of America must have probable cause to arrest a citizen or enter privately owned property (Gaines & Miller, 2010, pp. 165-166), law enforcement in the Russian Federation can arrest and hold a person in jail for a period of time on suspicion alone (Curtis, 1996); further, under laws enacted in 2010, FSB and MDV agents of federalized Russian law enforcement gained the authority to detain and search people almost at will and enter private homes without a warrant (Nemtsova, 2010). According to some experts, the corruption found among Russian law enforcement in recent years can be attributed to insufficient funding, poor training, inadequate wages, lack of accountability and conscription of police officials (Wikipedia: Militsiya, 2011) as compared to American law enforcement which has significantly better funding, training, wages, accountability and applicant requirements (Gaines & Miller, 2010, pp. 130-134). These differences are poised for potential change as recent funding changes, demilitarization of Russian law enforcement removing police powers from the militsiya (militia) and creation of the centralized politsiya (police) force went into effect on March 1, 2011, even though the federalized law enforcement remained under control of the Ministerstvo Vnutrennikh Del (Ministry of the Interior) (Wikipedia: Police of the Russian Federation, 2011; Ministry of the Interior, 2011). In the currently developing changes, the Ministry of the Interior has vowed to develop a new model for preventative law enforcement using a partnership model for combating crime (Ministry of the Interior, 2011) which may ultimately prove to be similar to community policing models that have been in use in the United States of America for the past three decades. It is highly possible that the current sweep of changes impacting law enforcement in the Russian Federation may ultimately prove to be as historically significant as the 1960s were for law enforcement in the United States of America.
The courts systems in the United States of America and in the Russian Federation both follow a hierarchical system. In the United States of America, the highest court is the United States Supreme Court consisting of nine judges who are appointed by the president and confirmed by the Senate to serve for life. The United States Supreme Court has final appellate jurisdiction over both civil and criminal matters with the authority to rule legislative law unconstitutional (Gaines & Miller, 2010, pp. 200-204). In the Russian Federation, there are three separate courts comprised of judges appointed by the president and confirmed by the Federation Council to serve for life that serve the purposes of the United States Supreme Court: the Constitutional Court of the Russian Federation consists of nineteen judges and holds the authority to rule legislative law unconstitutional, the Supreme Court of the Russian Federation consists of twenty-three judges and holds the final appellate jurisdiction over general jurisdiction and the Supreme Arbitration Court of the Russian Federation consists of five judges and holds the final appellate jurisdiction over arbitration and economic disputes (Konioukhova, 2001). Both nations have a system of federal courts below the supreme court levels with judges appointed by the president of their respective country (Gaines & Miller, 2010, pp. 199-204; Konioukhova, 2001). In the United States of America each state has state and local courts with judges selected based on local state laws (Gaines & Miller, 2010, pp. 205) where in the Russian Federation regional and city courts have judges selected by the federal Minister of Justice (Curtis, 1996). Both nations allow for the appeal of a court ruling to a court of higher authority; however, while precedent (Stare Decisis) is an important aspect in judicial rulings in the United States of America (Gaines & Miller, 2010, pp. 79) courts in the Russian Federation are not required but may instead choose to acknowledge and adhere to previous rulings of other courts (Wikipedia: Law of the Russian Federation, 2011).
The courtroom work groups are similar in the Russian Federation and the United States of America. Both nations have a federalized office consisting of criminal prosecuting attorneys with the United States Attorney’s Office for the United States of America (Gaines & Miller, 2010, pp. 208) and the Office of Prosecutor General for the Russian Federation (Konioukhova, 2001). Additionally, both nations have a federalized office consisting of criminal defense attorneys available by judicial appointment if a defendant cannot afford an attorney of his own (Gaines & Miller, 2010, pp. 211; Curtis, 1996).
While both nations utilize correctional systems after the conviction of offenders, the emphasis on correction differs between what is seen in the United States of America and what is seen in the Russian Federation. While the Common Legal Tradition as seen in the United States of America places emphasis on deterrence, incapacitation, retribution and rehabilitation within its correction system the aspects of the Civil Legal Tradition and the Socialist Legal Tradition seen in the Russian Federation add that corrections can be used to achieve a desirable end – sometimes an educational result or one that furthers the purpose of the government (Reichtel, 1999).
While the criminal justice systems of the United States of America and the Russian Federation hold roots in a common history and a number of more recent similarities, it should be noted that the differences between the systems have significant impact on the final outcomes of criminal investigation and court proceedings in their respective nations. Both nations have highly developed and intricate systems of criminal justice that each would argue is appropriate and fulfills the needs of their separate societies, evidenced by the fact that neither of the two nations have accepted compulsory jurisdiction of the United Nations’ International Court of Justice (CIA, 2011).
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