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Comparison of Sentencing Outcomes for Defendants with Public Defenders Versus Retained Counsel in a Florida Circuit Court

NCJ Number
The Justice System Journal Volume: 23 Issue: 2 Dated: 2002 Pages: 249-257
Marian R. Williams
Susette Talarico
Date Published
9 pages
This study examined the Florida public defender system by focusing on whether public defenders were able to obtain similar sentences for their clients when compared with private attorneys, controlling for relevant case characteristics.
Over the years, public defender systems have been the subject of criticism. Public defender systems are under-funded producing low salaries and insufficient resources. One of the biggest problems facing indigent defense systems is funding which can affect the quality of services provided. The purpose of this study was to address this issue through an examination of the public defender system in a northern Florida county. A comparison was conducted on the sentencing outcomes for those defendants with public defenders and those with private attorneys. This study took in aspects of three theoretical frameworks for understanding sentencing decisions: political theory, legal theory, and organizational theory. Three sentence variables were analyzed, the effect of attorney type on sentence type, and length of incarceration with the primary variable being the type of attorney. Study results showed that the type of attorney had no effect on the sentence variables when controlling for the remaining variables. Overall, legal variables, such as seriousness of charge and prior record had the most impact on sentencing. Future research should examine the impact of attorney type on the initial stages of proceedings to determine if attorneys have an effect on whether a defendant pleads guilty, a case is dropped, or a defendant is convicted. References