A federation (Latin: foedus, foederis, 'covenant'), also known as a federal state, is a political entity characterized by a union of partially self-governing states or regions under a central (federal) government. In a federation, the self-governing status of the component states, as well as the division of power between them and the central government, are typically constitutionally entrenched and may not be altered by a unilateral decision of either party, the states or the federal political body.
The governmental or constitutional structure found in a federation is known as federalism. It can be considered the opposite of another system, the unitary state. Germany with sixteen Länder is an example of a federation, whereas neighboring Austria and its Bundesländer was a unitary state with administrative divisions that became federated, and neighboring France by contrast has always been unitary.
United States criminal procedure derives from several sources of law: the baseline protections of the United States Constitution, federal and state statutes, federal and state rules of criminal procedure (such as the Federal Rules of Criminal Procedure), and state and federal case law either interpreting the foregoing or deriving from inherent judicial supervisory authority.
The United States Constitution, including the United States Bill of Rights and subsequent amendments, contains the following provisions regarding criminal procedure. Due to the incorporation of the Bill of Rights, all of these provisions apply equally to criminal proceedings in state courts, with the exception of the Grand Jury Clause of the Fifth Amendment, the Vicinage Clause of the Sixth Amendment, and (maybe) the Excessive Bail Clause of the Eighth Amendment.
A mandatory sentence is a court decision setting where judicial discretion is limited by law. Typically, people convicted of certain crimes must be punished with at least a minimum number of years in prison. Mandatory sentencing laws vary from country to country; it is mainly an area of interest only in Common Law jurisdictions, since Civil Law jurisdictions usually prescribe minimum and maximum sentences for every type of crime in explicit laws.
United States federal juries are generally not allowed to be informed of the mandatory minimum penalties that may apply if the accused is convicted, because the jury's role is limited to a determination of guilt or innocence. However, sometimes defense attorneys have found ways to impart this information to juries; for instance, it is sometimes possible, on cross-examination of an informant who faced similar charges, to ask how much time he was facing. This is sometimes deemed permissible because it is a means of impeaching the witness. However, in at least one state court case in Idaho, it was deemed impermissible.
The Federal Sentencing Guidelines are rules that set out a uniform sentencing policy for individuals and organizations convicted of felonies and serious (Class A) misdemeanors in the United States federal courts system. The Guidelines do not apply to less serious misdemeanors.
The Guidelines are the product of the United States Sentencing Commission, which was created by the Sentencing Reform Act of 1984. The Guidelines' primary goal was to alleviate sentencing disparities that research had indicated was prevalent in the existing sentencing system, and the guidelines reform was specifically intended to provide for determinate sentencing. This refers to sentencing whose actual limits are determined at the time the sentence is imposed, as opposed to indeterminate sentencing, in which a sentence with a maximum (and, perhaps, a minimum) is pronounced but the actual sentence is determined by a parole commission or similar administrative body after the person has started serving his or her sentence. As part of the guidelines reform, parole was abolished.
In the United States, sentencing law varies by jurisdiction. Since the US Constitution is the supreme law of the land, all sentences in the United States must conform to the requirements of the Constitution, which sets basic mandates while leaving the bulk of policy-making up to the states.
Despite the continued growth of federal criminal law, the vast majority of criminal sentencing takes place in state and local courts. Except for death penalty cases (which are exceptionally rare), juries generally have little involvement in sentencing, which is typically left to the discretion of the presiding judge. Sentences are typically pronounced by the judge in a separate hearing, after the jury (or other finder of fact) has issued findings of fact and a guilty verdict. The structure and jurisdiction of courts within a state are typically governed by state law, as are sentences and sentencing guidelines and regimes. There is enormous substantive and procedural difference between the criminal laws of the fifty states and the various federal territories and enclaves.
Blakely v. Washington, 542 U.S. 296 (2004), held that, in the context of mandatory sentencing guidelines under state law, the Sixth Amendment right to a jury trial prohibited judges from enhancing criminal sentences based on facts other than those decided by the jury or admitted by the defendant. The landmark nature of the case (for good or ill) was alluded to by Justice Sandra Day O'Connor, who "described the Court's decision as a 'Number 10 earthquake.'"
Ralph Howard Blakely was born in 1936; he started his criminal career in 1954. Blakely married his wife in 1973. During the Blakely's 20-plus-year marriage, Mr. Blakely was involved in 80 or more lawsuits covering irrigation water rights, as well as crimes of assault, shoplifting, and many others. When his wife filed for divorce in 1996, Blakely kidnapped her from her home in rural Grant County, Washington, at knifepoint, forced her into a wooden box in the back of his pickup truck, and took her to Montana. He ordered their 13-year-old son to follow in another car, threatening to shoot his estranged wife with a shotgun if he did not comply. En route to Montana, their son escaped in Moses Lake, Washington, and alerted the police. FBI agents and sheriffs arrested Blakely in Montana near the town of Three Forks.
In journalism, a human interest story is a feature story that discusses a person or people in an emotional way. It presents people and their problems, concerns, or achievements in a way that brings about interest, sympathy or motivation in the reader or viewer.
Human interest stories may be "the story behind the story" about an event, organization, or otherwise faceless historical happening, such as about the life of an individual soldier during wartime, an interview with a survivor of a natural disaster, a random act of kindness or profile of someone known for a career achievement.
Criminal procedure refers to the adjudication process of the criminal law. While criminal procedure differs dramatically by jurisdiction, the process generally begins with a formal criminal charge and results in the conviction or acquittal of the defendant.
Currently, in many countries with a democratic system and the rule of law, criminal procedure puts the burden of proof on the prosecution – that is, it is up to the prosecution to prove that the defendant is guilty beyond any reasonable doubt, as opposed to having the defense prove that s/he is innocent, and any doubt is resolved in favor of the defendant. This provision, known as the presumption of innocence, is required, for example, in the 46 countries that are members of the Council of Europe, under Article 6 of the European Convention on Human Rights, and it is included in other human rights documents. However, in practice it operates somewhat differently in different countries.