Most people that haven’t had much experience with police or the judicial system think that if you get arrested for anything then you will not only have a criminal record, but will be found guilty for the mere fact that they were arrested. That may be true in some cases but there is actually quite a few people that are let go before any of that happens. Many people that have researched this have said that half or even more of arrests for serious crimes end without a conviction (Meyer & Grant, 2003). The criminal justice system is a very complex process that sometimes makes it easier to abandon a case rather than take it to court.
There are three models that describe this and they are known as funnels, cakes and nets. The funnel model is based on crimes committed all the way down to convictions obtained. It starts with a wide top, illustrating crimes being committed, tapering to a narrow end illustrating convictions for crimes committed. The crimes in the top of the funnel have many different explanations to why they never make it to the narrow base. Some crimes are never reported and others may never get enough evidence to move forward with a case resulting in a case being thrown out or just abandoned (Meyer & Grant, 2003).. This makes the funnel take shape.
Crimes not being reported will make the funnel get a little skinnier, evidence or lack thereof will make it smaller, the actual courtroom case or witnesses failing to testify make it even smaller and suspects being found not guilty make it even smaller at the end. The cake model is based on a tiered wedding cake. The cake will start with a large base and each tier that is placed on top will get smaller and smaller the same as the funnel but this model is used to classify crimes rather than convictions. This model shows how cases or crimes are sorted into layers depending on their seriousness (Meyer & Grant, 2003).
Less serious cases that may happen more frequent or aren’t as severe as others will make up the wider base and the more severe the crime, the smaller the layer on the cake. The crimes at the top are the same as school shootings televised nationally or even something like a sex scandal like Penn State had with one of their coaches molesting kids for decades. The tiers on the cake can even be looked at a different way. The less serious crimes on the bottom can be seen as a misdemeanor and the top is a felony with a more harsh punishment. The third model is known as the net.
This needs to be looked at the same that you would a fishing net in the ocean. The fishermen, or police, run a net to catch fish, or suspects. The net is made with holes of a certain size and that allow smaller fish to escape and even have some of the larger fish escaping from the top. This can be seen the same way as a case not making it to court or even a not guilty verdict. Or the fish still stuck in the net can escape other ways the same as with a criminal case. Criminals can trade information for little or even no jail time or can make a plea bargain to get out of their crime (Meyer & Grant, 2003).
The three models describe how many cases operate in the criminal justice system. Some people are lucky enough to be able to trade information or police may not be able to gather enough evidence in many ways and all three models describe when and how that can happen. Anybody that has gone to court for anything from a traffic stop to even a more severe crime has probably had the opportunity to escape court the same as in any of these models with plea bargain offers and even have had their crime changed from a felony to a misdemeanor for many reasons.
Meyer, J. F., & Grant, D. R. (2003). The courts in our criminal justice system. Upper Saddle River, NJ: Prentice Hall