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Decision-Making of the District Attorney: Diverting or Prosecuting Intrafamilial Child Sexual Abuse Offenders

NCJ Number
Criminal Justice Policy Review Volume: 4 Issue: 3 Dated: (September 1990) Pages: 249-267
Date Published
19 pages
Data from 221 client files of the Sexual Assault and Child Abuse (SACA) unit of the Sacramento District Attorney's Office were used in this study; the intrafamilial child sexual abused defendants were divided into those who were selected by SACA as appropriate for diversion referral and those charged with abuse who were not diverted.
The diverted and non-diverted samples were compared across two sets of factors including variables related to the SACA diversion referral guidelines and offense, offender, and victim variables unrelated to those screening criteria. The findings in this study show a strong association between the stated diversion referral guidelines and the actual criteria used by the District Attorney's Office to select defendants for participation in the Sacramento County Child Sexual Abuse Treatment Program (CSATP). Almost 90 percent of the cases were correctly classified on the basis of five variables defendant-victim relationship, record of criminal behavior, record of violent criminal activity, evidence of mental or emotional disorder, and acknowledgement of responsibility). Some of the variation is explained by the groups, while some variation may reflect errors in measurement or unrecognized factors. State law and case law have reinforced the independence of the prosecuting attorney in determining which defendants will be diverted. The sole restraint upon the district attorney is that discretion must be exercised within constitutional bounds. The only factor that influenced the DA's referral decisions, that was not included in the formal guidelines, was whether or not the defendant was a permanent resident in the victim's household. 9 tables, 5 notes, and 14 references (Author abstract modified)

Date Published: January 1, 1990