Crime Control Due Process Criminal Justice Models Herbert Packer

In the centuries of the last millennia criminal justice had been a subject of great controversy among the different nations of the world. Even within our own nation, punishment and justice were in argued between different parts of the country. A criminal punishment that may have seemed like a human rights violation to one civilization may have been considered generally acceptable to another. 

In modern times however, two general ideal models of law and justice have developed from different society’s political and social ideologies and each of these models “compete for priority” in each individual justice system (qtd, in Duff, 1998).  

Most developed nations utilize a combination of models within their own system in which the more dominant of the two is reflected by their ideologies regarding justice. The question postulated is which model of criminal justice is the best model to emphasize? 

The answer to this question is found mainly in the underlying principles and ideologies of each individual society and what is most important to them in their own justice system. 

From an individual person’s standpoint though the general differences that are described herein will provide the tools necessary to forming their own opinion and help them understand where their individual ideologies reside regarding the two criminal justice methods.

Origination of crime control and due process models

In 1964 Herbert Packer, a Stanford Law professor wrote a revolutionary article that provided a sound criminal justice philosophy. In his article, Packer proposed two ideal criminal justice models, the crime control model and the due process model. 

His two models provide a base for us to study and understand the relationships between the civil and moral ideologies of law and justice within societies. Packer’s article was stated to have “influenced just about everyone who has written about the operation the criminal justice system since” (Walsh, & Hemmens, 2008, p. 47).

Where does each model fit ideologically?

Each model’s strengths and weaknesses for the most part represent an individual society’s moral ideologies regarding crime and justice, the Crime Control model representing the conservative moral base and the Due Process model representing the liberal moral base (Walsh, & Hemmens, 2008). 

Whichever moral base is more prominent toward criminal justice in an individual society, will be more prominent in its associated justice model. It would be suggested then that more generally liberal nations would be more likely to adopt the Due Process model, and more generally conservative nations would adopt the Crime Control model (Walsh, & Hemmens, 2008). 

Interestingly enough however, some societies that possess similar moral views in other areas “can hold very different conceptions of justice” (Walsh, & Hemmens, 2008, p. 47).

Canada and the United States for example hold relatively similar moral and ethical views and ideologies, but hold strong differences in their views and practices regarding law and justice. 

Regarding the United States and Canada, Law, Justice and Society, a book written by Anthony Walsh and Craig Hemmens states, “The underlying values of these two common law countries that help to determine where they sit on the criminal justice continuum are exemplified in the objectives of “life, liberty, and the pursuit of happiness” in America’s Declaration of Independence, and “peace, order, and good government” in Canada’s British North America Act.”  (p. 48-49)

Characteristics of each model

Unlike some of the ideologies nations hold that remain unpracticed, the societal ideologies regarding law and justice are definitely reflected in the general practices and tactics that are used within each justice model. Each model represents a very clear set of criminal justice beliefs. 

For example, the crime control model emphasizes greater protection of the society from the criminals within. It focuses more on harder and swifter punishments of crimes for the greater good of the society. 

In a related article on, it is summarized that tactics such as search warrants, interrogation techniques and search and seizure methods should be broadened to give the police more power (Which Model).

Board certified criminal defense investigator Brandon A Perron states that crime control strategies “may include targeting high crime areas, increased patrols and traffic stops, profiling, undercover sting operations, wiretapping, surveillance, and aggressive raids and searches designed to break the back of criminal activity[…]certain individual rights must be sacrificed for the common good”(Perron). 

Packer suggested that crime control proponents should handle the cases in an “assembly line” like manner, eliminating the “ceremonious rituals that do not advance the case” (1964/1997). Crime control also proposes that appeals should be “kept to a minimum” as to not clutter the system with more trials (Walsh, & Hemmens, 2008, p. 48). 

The Crime Control system promotes quick and efficient legal system that does not get wrapped up in lengthy and complicated cases. Due process on the other hand takes a different approach.  

Law, Justice and Society (2008) states, “If the crime control model can be likened to an assembly line, the due process model can be likened to an obstacle course in which impediments to carrying the accused’s case further are encountered at every stage of his or here processing.” (p. 48)

In a broad summary of Law, Justice and Society, the due process model focuses on making sure that the accused individual receives the best opportunity to prove his or her innocence.  Due process focuses on restricting police and judges with lengthy search and seizure, interrogation and appeals procedures. 

The main concern of due process proponents is that the society maintains reliability and integrity in the legal process and that reliability and integrity are not corrupted by speed and efficiency. 

This is such a strong component of the due process system that in certain cases guilty individuals have gone free due to technicality violations in the rules that officials are subject to. Due process is concerned with the process of criminal justice, not with the outcome (Walsh, & Hemmens, 2008).

The weaknesses of each model

Within each model there exist many weaknesses. Some of which have already been outlined. Because each model is the ideal scenario for two opposite ideologies, the result if a society adheres strictly to one or the other can lead to problems. 

Weaknesses in the crime control method revolve around being too quick and too efficient. Much evidence today is based on the analysis of individual “experts” of certain fields. If an expert was wrong in an analysis that is the base of incriminating evidence, the accused party could suffer a penalty that was not warranted. 

In a situation like this a case appeal could provide the necessary evidence that would free an innocent person. On the other extreme and example of weakness in the due process model can be found when the absolute necessity to uphold the integrity of the legal process frees a guilty man on a process violation. 

Law, Justice and Society (2008) illustrates this weakness with a specific case law example. In the 1977 case Brewer v. Williams the due process model showed its weakness when a man found guilty in 1969 of kidnapping, rape and murder in had his case overturned due to a violation of his interrogation rights. 

In 1984 in the case Nix v. Williams over turned the appeal from Brewer v. Williams and once again upheld Williams’ conviction upon retrial (Walsh, & Hemmens, 2008). 

This weakness seemed to have corrected itself, but other similar cases have been upheld and criminals have been freed on technicalities. One of the two weaknesses regarding this case comes primarily with the placement of process maintaining over societal protection. 

The other weakness comes from the extreme cost to society to uphold this process. The crime control model weakens the rights and protection of the individual and the due process model weakens the rights protection of the community. 

Because each model represents an ideal scenario based on two different ideologies, reaching a middle ground or compromise in the model is necessary to appease each ideological base.  

Each model’s strengths and weaknesses reflect the strengths and weaknesses of the society in which the model is put to use. Too much of one ideological base will result in over emphasis of the model that aligns best with the most pronounced ideologies. 

The answer to which model is best emphasized can only be answered with what works best for the individual society it resides in. Whether it is crime control or due process, each society will base their model on what relates best to their beliefs. 

However, Law, Justice and Society (2008) concludes that the “process of tinkering by successive approximations to broad-reaching justice is the best that mere mortals can hope for” (p. 50).


Duff, Peter.  (1998). Crime control, due process and ‘the case for the prosecution’ : A problem of terminology? The British Journal of Criminology, 38(4), 611-615. 

Packer, Herbert. 1964/1997.  Two models of the criminal process.  In A criminal anthology, edited by S. Wasserman and C, Snyder, pp. 3-9. Cincinnati, Ohio: Anderson

Perron, Brandon A. The Crime Controls and Due Process Models.

Walsh, Anthony, & Hemmens, Craig. (2008). Law, justice, and society. (pp 47-51). New York: Oxford University Press, USA.

Which Model? Crime Control or Due Process. <,articleId-9911.html>.