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Interpersonal Power in the Criminal System

NCJ Number
American Criminal Law Review Volume: 50 Issue: 1 Dated: Winter 2013 Pages: 247-276
Kimberly Thomas
Date Published
30 pages
This article examines the workings of interpersonal power in the criminal system and discusses the effect that cases of interpersonal power have on criminal theory and practice.
Cases involving interpersonal power generally have three common features: the complainant has an interpersonal relationship with the alleged wrongdoer; the complainant perceives him/herself to have a lack of power or force necessary to influence the actions of the other party; and the complainant reaches out to the criminal justice system for assistance and guidance in dealing with the other party as opposed to going through the civil court system or taking extra-legal measures on their own. This article examines the workings of interpersonal power within the criminal justice system and discusses the effect that these cases have on criminal theory and practice. The author notes that the majority of cases involving interpersonal power involve State court misdemeanors and low-level felonies, and for the most part the instances of interpersonal power are all but invisible. The first part of the article presents an overview of current features within the criminal and civil justice system that enable people to exert interpersonal powers usually only seen within the confines of the civil courts. The second section of the article examines the various theoretical and doctrinal problems that cases involving interpersonal power pose for criminal law. The final section of the article addresses the problems created by the presence of interpersonal power in the criminal justice system that often goes unnoticed by outside observers. By bringing this subject into the academic realm, the author hopes to bring attention to the problems caused by interpersonal cases in the daily operation of criminal courts.


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