Terms and conditions apply: the effect of probation length and obligation disclosure on true and false guilty pleas

Shi Yan, Miko M. Wilford, Patricia A. Ferreira

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

Abstract

Objectives: Although the literature suggests wrongful guilty pleas exist, less attention has been devoted to the false guilty pleas to probation sentences. We examined the plea decision-making process when participants faced probation. Methods: We conducted a 2 (guilt status: innocent or guilty) × 2 (probation length: 1 year or 5 years) × 2 (probation obligations: general or detailed disclosure) between-participant experiment using an online sample (N = 906). Participants were randomly assigned to one of eight conditions and were asked whether they would accept a plea offer. Results: Participants who were guilty and faced a shorter probation sentence were more likely to plead guilty. Participants receiving detailed disclosure were less likely to plead guilty, but the effect was less robust. Participants who faced a longer sentence and received detailed disclosure reported larger declines in plea willingness. Conclusion: The findings suggest that criminal defendants are sensitive to the length and disclosure of probation sentences.

Original languageEnglish (US)
JournalJournal of Experimental Criminology
DOIs
StateAccepted/In press - 2022

Keywords

  • Computer simulation
  • False guilty pleas
  • Guilty pleas
  • Plea bargaining
  • Probation
  • Probation obligations

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Law

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