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Shannon McQuillan

Criminal Justice
Court Observations


Key concepts:

At 8:30am I sat down to watch a series

of cases at video court. The court room
was just as I pictured it with a neatly
carved wooden stand for the judge and
two plain tables for the defendant and
the prosecutor. The court room itself
seemed very formal and I was interested
in seeing how the cases would play out.

Criminal Justice in Action pg 190

Trial Court:
Courts in which most cases begin and in
which questions of fact are examined.

The first person brought to the stand

was man named Darnell. He was
arrested for public intoxication and
domestic assault with injury. The judge
set a no contact order between his
victim and himself. He then stated that
the victim was his wife and he lived with
her. So this meant that he could only
return to his home with an officer and he
must live with someone else until the
charges have been removed.

Criminal Justice in Action pg8:

A threat or an attempt to do violence to
another person that causes that person
to fear immediate physical harm.

Watching Darnell state that the victim

was his wife really upset me. Through
the projection of his voice he sounded
sad and annoyed that the no contact
ruling was in place. I completely agreed
with the judges decision to put in place
a no contact order. I have herd of
domestic violence before on television
and other places but this case made it
seem very real to me and helped me put
it into perspective.

According to the USCCB pg 9:

Likewise, we cannot ignore the
underlying cultural values that help to
create a violent environment: a denial of
right and wrong, education that ignores
fundamental values, an abandonment of
personal responsibility, an excessive and
selfish focus on our individual desires, a
diminishing sense of obligation to our
children and neighbors, and a misplaced
emphasis on acquiring wealth and

According to the USCCB pg 7:

The principle of participation is

especially important for victims of crime.
Sometimes victims are "used" by the
criminal justice system or political
interests. As the prosecution builds a
case, the victim's hurt and loss can be
seen as a tool to obtain convictions and
tough sentences. But the victim's need
to be heard and to be healed are not
really addressed.

After Darnell left I noticed to the left of

me that my ride along officer, Officer
Rick, was on duty for this hearing.
Although the defendant was not in the
room Officer Rick still need to be present
to make sure everything was running

The next person was a teenage boy

named Levi. He was arrested for a
violation of his probation. He was
arrested because police had a warrant
out for his arrest. Levi was on probation
due to organized crime. Levi was
arrested at his residence because of the
warrant and he was held for court.
What caught my attention about Levis
case was that his mother was sitting
right behind me. She seem liked she
knew a lot about the court system and
was knowledgeable on how to deal with
his case in particular. She wanted to talk
to her son through the video at one point
although the judge did not allow her too
so Levis attorney finished the session.

Criminal Justice in Action pg 201:

An official responsible for maintaining
security and order in the judges
chambers and the court room.

Criminal Justice in Action pg166:

Arrest Warrant
A written order, based on probable
cause and issued by a judge or
magistrate, commanding that the
person named on the warrant be
arrested by the police.
Criminal Justice in Action pg 8:
organized crime: illegal acts carried
out by illegal organizations engaged in
the market for illegal goods or services.
Criminal Justice in Action pg 55:
Chronic offender:
A delinquent or criminal who commits
multiple offenses is considered part of a
small group of wrongdoers who are
responsible for a majority of the
antisocial active in any given
According to the USCCB pg 7:

Family, Community, and Participation:

We believe the human person is social.
Our dignity, rights, and responsibilities
are lived out in relationship with others,
and primary among these is the family.
The disintegration of family life and
community has been a major contributor
to crime. Supporting and rebuilding
family ties should be central to efforts to
prevent and respond to crime
The one man was about thirty years old
and was arrested for public intoxication. I
could not fully focus on the case because
his attorney was talking so softly not
even his defendant could hear him. The
judge could tell how frustrated the
defendant was at his attorney for not
speaking up. It was hard to focus on the
aspects of the case because it was
distracting not being able to hear the
attorney and his statements but also
watching his defendant getting upset
also about not being able to hear.

Criminal Justice in Action pg72:

A criminal offense that is not a felony:
usually punishable by a fine or less than
a year in jail.
Criminal Justice in Action pg 205
defense attorney: The lawyer
representing the defendant.

Criminal Justice in Action pg. 75:

Actus Reus:
A guilty act.
The first woman was a named Chastity.
She was driving while intoxicated and
was charged with an OWI. The actus reas
was charged because she was
intoxicated therefore harming other lives
and her own.
What really made me interested in
Chastitys case was that Officer Rick, my
ride along officer, was a witness to her
arrest. I was pleased to see that there
are so many things
Police officers do within the country of

According to the USCCB pg 8:

The protection of society and its
members from violence and crime is an
essential moral value. Crime, especially
violent crime, not only endangers
individuals, but robs communities of a
sense of well-being and security, and of
the ability to protect their members. All
people should be able to live in safety.

Criminal Justice in Action pg 234:

Lastly was a man in his late twenties

named Matthew, he was arrested for PCS
and drug possession.
Over the course of the semester I heard
that Dubuque was having rising rates in
drug related issues. This was the first
exposure I have had to it. It defiantly
opened my eyes to the actual issues in
the area relating to drug usage.

Expert Witness:
A witness with professional training or
substantial experience qualifying her or
him to testify on a certain subject.
Criminal Justice in Action pg21:
Any substance that modifies biological,
psychological, or social behavior; in
particular, an illegal substance with
those properties.

What really left an impression in the courtroom was how informal it was before the
cases started. There were state attorneys walking around the courtroom in jeans
and talking about the latest gossip. It was not until the actual case started that it
seemed like a profession. But as soon as the cases started my eyes were open the
realities of the city in which I live.