Discretionary Decision Making in Partner Violence Cases: Situational and Contextual Influences

Anita N. Blowers, Univ. of North Carolina at Charlotte
Alissa Pollitz Worden, University at Albany
Jennifer L. Hartman, Univ. of North Carolina at Charlotte

ABSTRACT
Our understanding of the legal processing of partner violence cases has been shaped, appropriately, by concerns about discretionary decisions in the early stages (arrest), as well as concerns about the impact of court decisions on offenders' future behavior. With a few important exceptions, studies of discretionary decision making in the courts have been limited to single-jurisdiction studies, and to explanations based on variables that are readily retrieved from archived court data. The proposed study examiunes the choices of prosecutors and judges in pretrial, interstitial decisions, including bail/pretrial release, issuance of protective orders, decisions to dismiss or reduce charges, and decisions to conditionally dismiss charges. Analyses will include tests of two general hypotheses: first, that court actors base these decisions on conventional legal criteria (strength of evidence, likelihood of flight); and second, that court actors base these decisions on judgements of the blameworthiness of victims as well as offenders. The decisions of approximately fifteen judges, in five jurisidctions, will be assessed.

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Updated 05/20/2006