American Criminal Procedure in a European Context

51 Pages Posted: 10 Jun 2013  

Mar Jimeno-Bulnes

University of Burgos - Faculty of Law ; Chicago-Kent College of Law - Illinois Institute of Technology

Date Written: December 8, 2012


Research is focused on the field of comparative criminal procedure. Classical distinction between accusatorial and inquisitorial approaches, which are found in common law and civil law systems respectively are examinated. Inquisitorial criminal procedure, which is followed in continental Europe, has a pejorative connotation by contrast to accusatorial one.

Both inquisitorial and accusatorial models are seen as irreconcilable and as having conflicting characteristics. However, in practice, both models are not as different as the abstract descriptions suggest. The criminal procedures followed in continental Europe, influenced by American practices, have many of the features associated with the accusatorial/adversarial models. In addition, in accusatorial and/or adversarial systems, especially in the United States, the trial is not the general rule. In fact, in more than 90% of criminal cases in the United States, resolution is reached through plea bargaining. This is now a part of the adversarial system that also represents a failure of the system as far as the trial, which should be the general rule, is now the exception.

My proposal is that we should eliminate the two categories or labels (inquisitorial and accusatorial) for two reasons. First, the distinction is no longer accurate. The two models might have had distinctive and competing characteristics in the past, but this is no longer the case. Second, there is no longer a clear distinction between the two models because of the ways these models have influenced each other, especially the influence of the Anglo-American model on the European model.

Keywords: criminal procedure, comparative approach, inquisitorial and accusatorial models, adversarial and non adversarial trial

JEL Classification: K14, K19, K40, K49

Suggested Citation

Jimeno-Bulnes, Mar, American Criminal Procedure in a European Context (December 8, 2012). Cardozo Journal of International and Comparative Law (JICL), Vol. 21, No. 2, 2013. Available at SSRN: or

Mar Jimeno-Bulnes (Contact Author)

University of Burgos - Faculty of Law ( email )

Hospital del Rey s/n
Burgos, Burgos 09001
34-947-258735 (Phone)
34-947-258702 (Fax)


Chicago-Kent College of Law - Illinois Institute of Technology

565 W. Adams St.
Chicago, IL 60661-3691
United States

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