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Sexual Assault Case Outcomes: Disentangling the Overlapping Decisions of Police and Prosecutors

NCJ Number
Date Published
29 pages
This study analyzed police and prosecutorial decision-making in sexual assault cases, using quantitative data on sexual assaults reported to the Los Angeles Police Department and the Los Angeles County Sheriff's Department in 2008.
The authors argue that decisions made by police and prosecutors should not be examined in isolation from one another and that researchers who analyze arrest decisions by examining only cases that are formally cleared by arrest or who focus only on charging decisions that follow the arrest of a suspect may be ignoring important aspects of police and prosecutorial decision-making. This is confirmed by the results of this study, which found that a significant proportion of cases in which the police appeared to have probable cause to make an arrest did not result in the arrest of the suspect and that a substantial number of cases were rejected for prosecution by the district attorney before an arrest was made. Moreover, the factors that predict arrest and charging varied depending upon the way in which the outcome is operationally defined. These results have some important policy implications for police and prosecutors in managing sexual assault cases. (publisher abstract modified)

Date Published: January 1, 2019