Displaced Discretion? An Empirical Test of Prosecutorial Charge Bargaining Before and After the District of Columbia Sentencing Guidelines
Vance, Stephen Edward
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Though significant research has found that sentencing guidelines systems have reduced sentencing disparity, few studies have examined whether sentencing guidelines have shifted discretion and disparity from judges to prosecutors. Using data from the District of Columbia Superior Court, this research examines whether charge bargaining practices changed after the District of Columbia Sentencing Guidelines. This study also examines whether legal, offender, and case processing characteristics had different effects on charge bargaining outcomes before and after the Sentencing Guidelines. The analyses show that, while there were changes in the plea bargaining process after the Sentencing Guidelines, there was not significant evidence of a displacement of discretion or disparity to prosecutors. Policy implications are discussed.