A phrase that collectively describes the various agencies, establishments, and institutions tasked with administering or enforcing the law, which are organized primarily around handling either civil or criminal law. Note that although this language can refer to either or both systems, it is most frequently used to refer to the criminal justice system which is comprised of law enforcement, courts, and correctional institutions.
Not to be confused with the judicial system, a phrase that more narrowly refers to either:
- The system of federal courts authorized by Article III of the Constitution, including the Supreme Court and any lower courts established by Congress that comprise the judicial branch of government, or
- The system of state courts chartered by each state’s constitution
[Last updated in June of 2020 by the Wex Definitions Team]