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The Criminal Justice System of Colombia

The new constitution created an attorney general's office to zealously prosecute accused criminals. All police agencies were placed at the disposal of the attorney general, who had subordinates prosecuting cases throughout the nation. In addition, the legislature established a secret court system to handle drug cases, hoping to thwart attempts by drug dealers (among others) to rig proceedings (Pahl "Wanted," 611, 618).

Some have questioned the considerable power given to Colombia's attorney general, who can order searches, arrests, or wiretaps without oversight. Contrast that to the U.S., where searches and wiretaps must be approved by a neutral magistrate, and judges also often preside over requests for arrest warrants. Moreover, search warrants must be specific, and requests for wiretaps receive intense scrutiny (Pahl "Wanted," 629-630). The Colombians seem to have violated a central tenet of the prosecutorial system by mixing prosecutorial and judicial functions.

Colombia's Circuit Courts have jurisdiction for most criminal offenses, while the Superior Courts hear cases alleging murder or treason. Appeals are heard by the Superior Appeals Court. First, however, Colombia first had to train prosecutors and judges under its new constitution. The Colombian government, aided in this task by $36 million from the U.S., created groups that specialize in particular areas, such as drugs or white-collar crimes (Pahl "Wanted," 625).

Has it worked? Not really. More cartel members have been captured and tried, but the courts have handed down lenient sentences. Judges are still being bribed, including an egregious case in 1997 when a judge cleared a known drug dealer of murder despite overwhelming evidence. The ultimate proof comes from the drug dealers themselves, who marshal considerable resources against extradition, the one action the Colombian government could take that they truly fear. After all, trial in a Colombian cour...

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The Criminal Justice System of Colombia. (1969, December 31). In Retrieved 11:27, August 17, 2017, from
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