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How Long to Prosecute Child Sexual Abuse for a Community Using a Children's Advocacy Center and Two Comparison Communities?

NCJ Number
Child Maltreatment Volume: 13 Issue: 1 Dated: February 2008 Pages: 3-13
Wendy A. Walsh; Tonya Lippert; Theodore P. Cross; Danielle M. Maurice; Karen S. Davison
Date Published
February 2008
11 pages
This article explores the length of time between key events in the criminal prosecution of child sexual abuse cases.
Results found a wide distribution in time to disposition of cases, with 44 percent of cases resolved within 1 year, and 30 percent resulting in cases closed in more than 2 years. The three locations differed significantly in length of time for all phases of the criminal justice process, including charging decision, case resolution, and total case processing time. There were some variations across the three locations in case resolutions, even though the same District Attorney's Office served all the locations. Cases in which the offender was initially arrested were resolved in a timely manner. The majority of cases took no more than 60 days for the charging decision, time between law enforcement report, and indictment date. Children’s Advocacy Center (CAC) cases had a quicker preliminary processing time than either of the two comparison communities, possibly indicating greater involvement of prosecutors initially in this quicker indictment. The Assistant District Attorney is located at the CAC and participates in investigative team meetings, and this could have some impact on the charging decisions. Notably, in one comparison community, more than 50 percent of the cases had a case resolution time within the 180-day target suggested by the American Bar Association (ABA) standard for felonies, whereas, only 13 percent of the cases of the CAC and the other comparison community had the same. There was also some variation of the total processing time between law enforcement report and disposition date. Again, one community generally had a quicker resolution of cases compared to the other two communities. Still, more than half of the cases took more than 1 year to be criminally prosecuted, which is dramatically longer than ABA standards and what many State statutes recommend for felonies. Data were collected from the Dallas Children’s Advocacy Center (DCAC) in Dallas, TX. Tables, references