In examining prosecutorial justifications for not bringing charges in sexual assault cases, this study obtained data on all sexual battery cases (n = 140) with alleged victims over 12 years old cleared by arrest in 1997 by the Sexual Crimes Bureau of the Miami-Dade (Miami, FL) Police Department.
The objective of this study was to replicate and extend Frohmann's (1991) study of prosecutorial justifications for not bringing charges in sexual assault cases. Although the findings of the current study are consistent with Frohmann's conclusion that prosecutorial charging decisions in sexual assault cases are based on the prosecutor's assessment of the likelihood of conviction, the current study also determined that this prosecutorial assessment is based on factors other than prosecutorial beliefs about rape scenarios and the characterizations of rape victims. In a substantial number of the cases in the current study, the prosecutor's decision not to bring charges could be traced to the alleged victim's failure to appear for an interview prior to the charging decision, refusal to cooperate in the prosecution of the case, or admission that the charges were fabricated. The current study also found that a prosecutor's decision as to whether or not to file charges was based on a combination of case and victim characteristics. Case that involved an alleged victim and suspect who were acquainted, related, or intimate partners were more likely to be rejected than those cases that involved an alleged victim and suspect who were strangers. The authors conclude that prosecutorial charging decisions in sexual assault cases are guided by a set of "focal concerns' that revolve around the likelihood of securing a conviction. This set of "focal concerns" includes prosecutorial beliefs about what constitutes rape and a legitimate rape victim. 4 tables and 25 references