U.S. flag

An official website of the United States government, Department of Justice.

In Search of the Missing Link: Examining Contextual Variation in Federal Charge Bargains Across US District Courts

NCJ Number
Justice Quarterly Volume: 35 Issue: 7 Dated: 2018 Pages: 1133-1165
Date Published
13 pages

Since little is known about the extent to which charging practices vary across court contexts, particularly in the federal criminal justice system, this study examined this issue by linking 4 years of charging data from the Administrative Office of the U.S. Courts (AOUSC) with corresponding data from the U.S. Sentencing Commission (USSC).


The study incorporated unique information on district court contexts from a variety of sources to investigate jurisdictional variation in charge reductions. Findings provide evidence that federal charging practices varied across district courts. In particular, several structural court characteristics were significantly related to the likelihood of charge reduction for similarly situated defendants. Results from this study are interpreted through the lens of contemporary legal perspectives on court communities and suggest several fruitful directions for additional research on the social contexts of criminal prosecution. (publisher abstract modified)

Date Published: January 1, 2018