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Variation in Trial Penalties Among Serious Violent Offenses

NCJ Number
Criminology Volume: 44 Issue: 3 Dated: August 2006 Pages: 631-670
Jeffery T. Ulmer; Mindy S. Bradley
Date Published
August 2006
40 pages
This study examined differences in sentencing for those who pled guilty and those convicted by jury trial for defendants convicted of serious violent offenses.
The study found that the odds of a sentence of incarceration following a bench trial were approximately 2.2 times the odds of incarceration following a guilty plea. Whether conviction resulted from a guilty plea or a bench trial had the fourth and fifth strongest effects on the odds of incarceration, following offense severity, prior record, and presumptive sentence recommendations. Overall, conviction by trial, especially jury trial, carried a significant additional sentencing penalty for the serious violent offenses examined. On average, those found guilty by bench trials received approximately 22 percent longer incarceration sentences than those who pled guilty. Being convicted by jury trial increased sentence lengths by approximately 57 percent. Study limitations are discussed. The study used aggregate and individual-level sentencing data from county criminal trial courts in Pennsylvania. The sentencing data covered 3 years (1997 to 2000). The cases were limited to the most serious offense charged and to those cases sentenced under the 1997 sentencing guidelines. The examination of the incarceration decision involved 8,585 cases, and the analysis of incarceration length involved 7,643 cases. 3 tables and 80 references


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