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Effectiveness of Public Defenders in Four Florida Counties

NCJ Number
Journal of Criminal Justice Volume: 41 Issue: 4 Dated: July - August 2013 Pages: 205-212
Marian R. Williams
Date Published
August 2013
8 pages
This study examined the association between type of attorney (public defender or private attorney) representing defendants and case outcomes, building upon recent studies in Florida (Williams, 2002) and Illinois (Hartley, Miller, & Spohn, 2010).
Regarding pretrial decisions, defendants with public defenders were less likely to have their charges dismissed; however, there was no link between type of attorney and whether or not bail was offered to defendants. In addition, defendants with public defenders were more likely to be detained pretrial. Regarding variables related to conviction outcomes, there was no relationship between type of attorney and the likelihood of reducing a charge to a misdemeanor; however, only a small percentage of defendants had their charges reduced to a misdemeanor (7.9 percent). Neither was there a relationship between type of attorney and the likelihood of a prison sentence; and if sentenced to prison, the length of the sentence was not associated with type of attorney. As for the control variables in the analyses of conviction variables, results were similar to the ones found for the pre-conviction (pretrial) analyses; i.e., legal factors such as prior convictions and status at the time of arrest had a role in convictions, but so did the extra-legal factor of gender. Apparently, females are treated more leniently than males even in the era of sentencing guidelines. The current study assessed the effectiveness of public defenders in Florida. Data were obtained from the Bureau of Justice Statistics State Court Processing Statistics, 1990-2006: Felony Defendants in Large Urban Counties Provided by the Inter-University Consortium for Political and Social Research. The data contain information for felony cases filed in 40 of the 75 most populous counties in the United States; 4 Florida counties were included in the study. 3 tables and 55 references


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