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German and American Prosecutions: An Approach to Statistical Comparison

NCJ Number
F Feeney
Date Published
February 1998
114 pages
Germany's criminal justice system contrasts sharply with the U.S. criminal justice system in a number of important ways; in particular, police and prosecution agencies are state-level rather than local, and the prosecutor in Germany is a civil servant rather than an elected official who operates within a hierarchical system.

Provides a statistical comparison of German and American prosecutions, focusing mainly on charging, conviction, and sentencing rates for selected crimes. Although German prosecutors are legally obligated to charge all serious cases that are prosecutable and American prosecutors have wide discretion, the report finds that the percentage of cases actually charged is similar for most offenses examined. The overall percentage of defendants convicted is also similar, but the German system has many more trials and acquittals and many fewer dismissed cases. In addition, Germany imposes sentences much shorter than those imposed in the United States. The report discusses the comparability of German and American offense categories and develops a method for comparative statistical analysis.