Prosecutorial Charging Decisions in Sexual Assault Cases: Examining the Impact of a Specialized Prosecution Unit

Dawn Beichner, Cassia Spohn

Research output: Contribution to journalArticle

79 Scopus citations

Abstract

Although the criminal justice system has undergone reform to eliminate sexual assault case attrition and to improve the overall treatment of sexual assault victims, few studies have examined the effect of these reforms. In this study, the authors examine prosecutorial charging decisions across two unique jurisdictions: Kansas City, Missouri, which utilizes a specialized unit for sexual assault cases, and Miami, Florida, which does not use a specialized unit to determine the effect of prosecutorial specialization on case outcomes. The findings of the study reveal that, despite differences in departmental policies and rates of plea bargaining and trials, prosecutors’ charging decisions and the predictors of charging are similar in the two jurisdictions. The authors conclude that, regardless of whether decisions are made in a specialized unit or not, victim credibility is a real “focal concern” of the prosecutor in sexual assault cases.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)461-498
Number of pages38
JournalCriminal Justice Policy Review
Volume16
Issue number4
DOIs
StatePublished - 2005
Externally publishedYes

Keywords

  • charging
  • prosecution
  • sexual assault
  • specialized unit

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Law

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