«The Sieve Effect» Essay Example

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The Sieve Effect in Criminal Justice System

The Sieve Effect in Criminal Justice System

What is your opinion about the so called «The Sieve Effect» meaning in legal terms?

The “sieve effect” is a situation describing the failure of most criminal case to result in prosecution because of attrition. In criminal justice system, once a person has been arrested for the accusation of having committed a crime, such as a felony, the case is expected to move to the adjudication stage and finally to prosecution/trial. However, most criminal cases fail to end up in prosecution due to the «sieve effect» (Scheb, 2014). For instance, out of two hundred felony arrests in the United States, perhaps just as few as fifty end up in conviction with the rest being thrown out due to the sieve effect.

Personally, I believe that the «sieve effect» results because of many reasons. First, the sieve effect occurs in the criminal justice system because of lack of evidence. In law, a person is presumed innocent until proven otherwise. However, in most criminal cases, the police and the prosecutors fail to produce enough evidence in court, thus resulting in the cases being thrown out before reaching the trial stage or conviction. For example, in the United States, less than 5% of all criminal cases reach trial with the rest being dropped by the prosecutor for the inadequacy of evidence (Scheb, 2014). Other than the lack of evidence, the sieve effect is also caused by factors such as procedural errors, police misconduct and relocation of young offenders to the juvenile courts.

Therefore, to minimize the «sieve effect» in the country’s criminal justice system, it would be importance for the prosecutor and the police to ensure that enough evidence is presented and that the criminal justice procedures are followed, as well as the police conducting themselves in a legal and ethical manner.


Scheb, J. M. (2014). Criminal law. Mason, OH: Cengage Learning.