The government is responsible for passing laws (approving new laws to be put into practice), and the courts and legal system are in charge of upholding and enforcing the law (applying the law to the population).
When a person is charged with a crime (formally accused of the crime), he or she must appear in court to stand trial (be judged guilty or innocent).
Both the prosecution and the defense will present their cases before the judge and jury.
After consideration, the judge or jury will reach a verdict (arrive at a decision).
If there is irrefutable, overwhelming, or concrete evidence, this means that it is very obvious that the person committed the crime, and it’s possible that the jury will be unanimous (meaning they all agree) in their decision. However, if the evidence is circumstantial or inconclusive (the evidence does not 100% prove the conclusion), then the decision will be more difficult – it’s possible to have a hung jury, which cannot agree on the verdict.
Less serious crimes will receive a light sentence (a small punishment) – for example, the offender may have to pay a fine or do community service.
For more serious crimes, the person will probably go to prison – and especially heinous crimes can result in a harsh sentence such as life in prison (or life imprisonment) or, in some places, the death penalty.
After the decision is made, the lawyers can choose to appeal the verdict (try to change the decision), and the case may turn into a prolonged legal battle as the courts decide whether to uphold or overturn the original verdict – “uphold” meaning to continue with the original decision, and “overturn” meaning to change the decision.
As a convicted criminal is serving time (spending time in prison), he or she should remember the possibility of being released from prison early for good behavior, as long as they are not deemed a threat to society (possibly dangerous to other people).
A criminal who is released early is said to be “on parole,” meaning that he or she must comply with certain conditions after getting out of jail – such as getting a job and refraining from drug/alcohol use.
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