Mandatory Sentencing and Adjudication MOutcomes: Examining the Role of Extralegal Defendant Characteristics

Miriam D. Sealock, Towson University
Nicole Leeper Piquero, University of Florida

ABSTRACT
Mandatory sentencing has been proposed not only as a means by which to incapacitate criminals and to deter crime through inflexible and tough penalties, but also as a way of equalizing sentencing outcomes across defendants. The concern of critics, however, is that mandatory penalties do not eliminate discretion, but instead shift it to an earlier, less visible stage in the criminal justice process. There has been much debate as to the extent to which such practices increase the unpredictability of adjudication outcomes. Little is known, however, about how specific legal or extralegal factors might influence the processing of mandatory minimum sentence cases. It is conceivable that, just as sentencing research in general has discussed disparate outcomes in regards to the gender, race or socioeconomic status of the defendant, the outcomes of charges involving a mandatory minimum sentence may also be linked with extralegal characteristics, particularly at the plea bargaining stage. The purpose of this research is to use court data collected for the Bureau of Justice Statistics by the National Pretrial Reporting Program to examine patterns of defendant extralegal characteristics and adjudication outcomes in cases involving a primary charge that is a mandatory minimum offense.

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Updated 05/20/2006