Despite an extensive literature on differential justice, relatively few studies have examined whether inequalities occur in legal decisions that precede sentencing.
This becomes a problem given the vast majority of criminal cases prosecuted in the United States that are disposed through guilty pleas to reduced charges. In an effort to address this issue, the current study examined legal, status, and resource determinants of both charge reductions and final dispositions in cases of burglary and robbery in two U.S. jurisdictions. While the analysis showed that social status influenced the acquisition of private counsel and pretrial release, resources that tended to favor defendants at final disposition, the expectation that charge reductions might be especially receptive to status influences was not supported. Only one direct status effect on charge reductions was obtained and no indirect influences appear to have been operating. Further, contrary to the dominant thesis, the direct effects of race/ethnicity on charge reductions and final dispositions point to less severe responses to minorities, responses that we suggest may have been the result of initial overcharging in cases of minority defendants. (Author abstract)
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- The Influence of Confessions on Guilty Pleas and Plea Discounts
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