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From Arrest to Sentencing: An Investigation of Penal Cursus

NCJ Number
Penal Issues Issue: 7 Dated: (March 1996) Pages: 16-19
B A de Cavarlay; M S Hure
Date Published
4 pages
This study uses case records to analyze the decisionmaking process involved in the selection and disposition (cursus) of cases in their handling by the French police and the prosecutor's office.
Similar studies have concluded that a past criminal history increases a suspect's chances of again following the cursus that leads to prison. This is the most relevant factor that structures decisions relative to both the case-processing procedure and the sanction. When previous contacts with the justice system are mentioned in the proceedings, this makes a difference in those cases where police decisionmaking is clearly decisive, such as in cases of shoplifting or personal assault. The respective influence of type of offense, social status, citizenship, past history of problems with the law, as well as some other factors should be studied. Subject to corroboration by more complete data, it can be tentatively concluded that a first prison term contributes to returning to a cursus that leads to further imprisonment; the first prison sentence depends on social integration and on the nature of the offense. Under these conditions, the gradual replacement of direct summonses by summonses by judicial police officers has a definite "cursus- setting" effect. Accused individuals who do not appear at court run the risk of having the judge set an unsuspended prison sentence; the sentence will be enforceable as soon as the individual is apprehended by the police. Imprisonment is thus a punishment for an offender's refusal to cooperate with the authorities more than it reflects the severity of the offense; this is particularly true for drug offenses. 1 table, 2 figures, and 1 reference