Prosecuting Intimate Partner Sexual Assault: Legal and Extra-Legal Factors That Influence Charging Decisions

Eryn Nicole O’Neal, Katharine Tellis, Cassia Spohn

Research output: Contribution to journalArticle

25 Scopus citations


Prosecutors play a crucial role in determining whether persons who are accused of intimate partner sexual assault (IPSA) will be sanctioned by the criminal justice system. Prosecutors have unconditional discretion at the initial charging stage because a case rejection decision is typically immune to review. Using qualitative data from 47 IPSA complaints that were referred to Los Angeles County or City prosecution in 2008, this study examines the factors that influence charging decisions. Findings suggest that prosecutors consider both legal and extralegal factors when making charging decisions and that various cultural, legal, and rape myths surrounding IPSA influence these decisions.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)1237-1258
Number of pages22
JournalViolence Against Women
Issue number10
StatePublished - Oct 1 2015



  • charging decisions
  • intimate partner sexual assault
  • qualitative

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Gender Studies
  • Law
  • Sociology and Political Science

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