Criminal Justice Standards Home

Criminal Justice Standards Home

About Criminal Justice Standards

For forty years, the ABA Criminal Justice Standards have guided policymakers and practitioners working in the criminal justice arena. When the initial volumes were issued in 1968, Chief Justice Warren Burger described the Standards project as "the single most comprehensive and probably the most monumental undertaking in the field of criminal justice ever attempted by the American legal profession in our national history." In the years since, several new volumes have been added to the original seventeen-volume First Edition, a Second Edition has been completed, and a Third Edition is well underway.

Initial responsibility for ensuring the Standards continue to be relevant, timely, and of the highest quality resides in the nine-member Standards Committee appointed by the ABA President upon recommendations submitted by the Chair of the Criminal Justice Section. The Standards Committee determines the priorities for updating or revising existing volumes and for developing or expanding volumes to address issues not already covered. It commissions and provides oversight to Task Forces in developing specific recommendations, and ensures thorough review by both ABA and non-ABA entities. It reviews, revises, and approves draft standards to be forwarded to the Criminal Justice Section Council and, ultimately, to the policymaking ABA House of Delegates. Following approval by the House, it oversees the preparation of and approves commentary to accompany the "black letter" standards and, finally, it ensures publication of the new volumes.

Click HERE for an article on " The Making of the ABA Criminal Justice Standards" by Criminal Justice Standards Committee Chair Martin Marcus appearing in the Winter 2009 edition of the Section's Criminal Justice Magazine.

Links to the Table of Contents  of each published volume appear in the right-hand column.   Links on the Table of Contents  pages take the reader to both  individual “black letter” Standards and to PDF files of the publications with commentary.  To purchase  paperback publications with commentary, see the Standards Ordering Information .

Recent Standards Developments

Prosecutorial Investigations

At its 2008 Midyear Meeting, the ABA House of Delegates approved a detailed set of "black letter" Criminal Justice Standards on Prosecutorial Investigations.  These new Standards supplement the Prosecution Function Standards and are intended as a guide to prosecutors actively engaged in criminal investigations or performing legally mandated investigative responsibilities . To go directly to individual "black letter" standards, click on the applicable link in the Table of Contents . Commentary to these Standards is currently being developed and once it is approved by the Standards Committee will accompany these “black letter” Standards in a published volume.

 DNA Evidence

The "black letter" Standards contained and discussed in this publication relate to collecting, preserving and use of DNA evidence, DNA testing, pretrial proceedings, trial, post-conviction, charging by DNA profile, and DNA databases. The "black letter" Standards were approved by the American Bar Association's policymaking House of Delegates in August 2006. The commentary was approved by the Criminal Justice Standards Committee in July 2007. Although this publication is part of the Third Edition of the Criminal Justice Standards, this is the first volume relating to DNA Evidence.

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