Some research suggests that female offenders are treated more leniently than male offenders in criminal processing. Other research contends that female offenders are either treated similarly to or treated more harshly than male offenders. Still, some derivative of this literature maintains that any advantage of female over male offenders is enjoyed exclusively by Anglo females. “Serious” offenses and the sentencing stage in criminal processing constitute much of the evidentiary bases of these positions. In this research, we explore the efficacy of the sex disparity thesis focusing on a “soft” offense at the pretrial stage. Specifically, we investigate whether sex predicts the disposition of drug cases and the extent to which Anglo females were treated more leniently than their ethnic minority counterparts. Generally, we found that female offenders were treated more leniently than male offenders. Within race/ethnic categories, Anglo and black females were treated more leniently than Anglo and black males, while Latino males and females tended to be treated equally. On the contrary, we did not find evidence of more favorable treatment of Anglo over ethnic minority females. The implications of the findings for the major assumptions regarding male-female disparities in criminal processing are discussed.
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