Being convicted of a misdemeanor has profound consequences for defendants. While research has focused almost exclusively on felony crimes, this emphasis on the most serious crimes provides a distortion of the operations of the criminal courts. This book explores misdemeanor courts in the United States by focusing on the processing of misdemeanor crimes and the resultant consequences of conviction, such as loss of employment and housing, the imposition of significant fines, and loss of liberty-all amounting to the criminalization of poverty that happens in many misdemeanor courts across the United States every day. One concern is the lack of due process employed in the cases in lower courts. Although the seminal case of Gideon v. Wainwright required the appointment of counsel to individuals too poor to hire counsel in felony cases, it was not until 1967, when the President's Commission on Law Enforcement and Administration of Justice found a crisis in the lower courts, that the Supreme Court extended the right to counsel to some (though not all) prosecutions of misdemeanor offenses.
The first step to improving our understanding of the lower courts is a concerted effort by scholars to focus on the processing and outcomes of misdemeanor cases. This collection begins to fill the void by providing a comprehensive review of the scholarly work on the lower courts in the United States. Collecting analysis from key academics engaged in work in this area today, the book reviews the varying specialized lower criminal courts, including specialty courts that have emerged in just the last couple of decades, along with discussions of the history, legal challenges, operation, primary actors (judges, prosecutors, defense counsel, and defendants), and current research on these courts Additionally, the book discusses the future of the lower criminal courts and offers best practices to improve them.
The Lower Criminal Courts is essential for scholars and undergraduate and graduate students in criminology, sociology, justice studies, pre-law/legal studies, political science, and social work., and is also useful as a resource providing legal practitioners with important information highlighting the significance of consequences of misdemeanor arrests, detentions, and adjudications.