U.S. flag

An official website of the United States government, Department of Justice.



The court system plays a critical role in the judicial process, impacting which arrestees are charged with and potentially convicted of a criminal offense. The court system consists broadly of prosecution, pretrial services and detention, defense services, and courts of limited and general jurisdiction, and oversees the adjudication process for juvenile and adult offenders.

BJS collects data on the offices and systems critical to the adjudication process, including indigent defense services, prosecutor offices, and state attorney general offices. Data from these offices provide estimates of staffing, caseloads, and expenditures associated with prosecuting and defending cases in the nation's courts. Several specialized collections focus on specific issues affecting the courts, such as cybercrime and how cases involving juveniles are processed in state court systems.

BJS also examines the adjudication of civil cases by bench or jury trial in a national sample of trial courts. These data provide information on the characteristics of plaintiffs and defendants as well as case processing and outcome characteristics, including post-verdict relief and appeals.

Terms & Definitions


The act of a court in making an order, judgment, or decree.

Bench trial (nonjury trial)

A trial held in the absence of a jury and decided by a judge culminating in a judgment for the plaintiff(s) or defendant(s).

Capital cases

Crimes that can result in a death penalty.

Public defense

Legal counsel and representation in either criminal or civil proceedings as provided by public defenders and other government programs that pay the fees of court-appointed counsel.


Final act of a judge-ruled process, and also the symbolic principal act connected to his function. The sentence generally involves a decree of imprisonment, a fine, and/or other punishments against a defendant convicted of a crime.
Date Created: February 18, 2021