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A Focal Concerns Perspective on Prosecutorial Decision Making in Cases of Intimate Partner Stalking

NCJ Number
Criminal Justice and Behavior Volume: 47 Issue: 6 Dated: 2020 Pages: 733–748
Date Published
March 2020
16 pages

This study used the focal concerns perspective in analyzing 5 years of domestic violence and stalking case outcomes in Rhode Island.


Despite millions of stalking victims contacting the police each year, suspects are rarely arrested or prosecuted. Although prosecutors are ultimately the gatekeepers to holding defendants accountable, few studies have examined the factors that influence prosecutorial charging decisions in stalking cases. The current study found that prosecutors were more likely to prosecute stalking cases when defendants evoked fear in the victim and pursued victims in public. The decision to prosecute stalking versus other domestic violence–related charges was motivated by the location of the offense and the defendant’s history of physical abuse toward the victim. Neither extralegal factors nor characteristics of blameworthiness or suspect culpability influenced prosecutorial decision-making. The study’s findings reveal the legal complexities of stalking and suggest the need for additional insight on prosecutorial perspectives and strategies that emphasize the standard of victim fear in criteria for the decision to prosecute stalking cases. 69 references (publisher abstract modified)

Date Published: March 1, 2020