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Bail, Detention, & Nonfelony Case Outcomes

NCJ Number
Mary T. Phillips Ph.D.
Date Published
May 2007
8 pages
This report presents highlights from an ongoing New York City, Criminal Justice Agency (CJA) study examining relationships among the amount of bail, the duration of detention, and case outcomes with a focus on non-felony cases.
Results support the hypothesis that pretrial detention has an adverse effect on case outcomes, especially the likelihood of conviction. However, detention was not the predominant factor in predicting conviction, and it was only a very small factor in predicting incarceration and sentence length. Offense type, charge severity class, the defendant's criminal history, borough of prosecution, and other factors together accounted for a much larger proportion of the variation in outcomes than did detention. The findings suggest a causal loop: case-related factors affect outcome, judges adjust bail setting in response to those same and other factors, and the resulting detention has an additional small effect on the outcomes, particularly likelihood of conviction. Research literature has long reported a connection between pretrial detention and the severity of case outcomes. However, the nature of the relationship is hard to determine. This study examined the effects of pretrial detention on case outcomes in New York City. The outcomes included in the analysis were likelihood of conviction, likelihood of incarceration, and sentence length. The dataset used for this study included all arrests in New York City from October 2003 through January 2004. The analyses were restricted to docketed cases with a non-felony top charge entering criminal court (lower court) arraignment. The use of non-felony cases sets this study apart from previous studies. Figures