Low-Level, but High Speed? Assessing Pretrial Detention Effects on the Timing and Content of Misdemeanor versus Felony Guilty Pleas

Research output: Contribution to journalArticle

2 Scopus citations

Abstract

While numerous studies have examined pretrial detention and felony case outcomes, little empirical attention has been devoted to misdemeanor pretrial detention. We theorize that misdemeanants detained for a longer proportion of time will plead guilty quicker because the costs of fighting their charges in jail often outweigh the sanctions they face. Utilizing data on 165,630 felony and misdemeanor cases from Miami-Dade County, Florida, during a 4-year period (2012–2015) we assess whether the effects of pretrial detention length on the timing and content of guilty pleas differ across lower-level and upper-level courts. Survival analyses and multinomial logistic regressions indicate that misdemeanor cases overall and those involving lengthier pretrial detention are resolved faster, with most resulting in non-carceral sanctions such as credit for time served (CTS). Given that misdemeanors make-up the bulk of U.S. criminal cases, these findings reveal important insights about how pretrial detention impacts case-processing dynamics in lower courts.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)1314-1335
Number of pages22
JournalJustice Quarterly
Volume36
Issue number7
DOIs
StatePublished - Nov 10 2019
Externally publishedYes

Keywords

  • criminal case-processing
  • guilty plea
  • low-level courts
  • misdemeanor courts
  • Pretrial detention

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Pathology and Forensic Medicine
  • Law

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