U.S. flag

An official website of the United States government, Department of Justice.

Impact of Prosecutor/Public Defender Interaction on Sentencing An Exploratory Typology

NCJ Number
Criminal Justice Review Volume: 5 Issue: 1 Dated: (Spring 1980) Pages: 43-53
M G Gertz
Date Published
The impact of the prosecutor-public defender relationship on a court's sentencing is examined, and the process of building a typology that indicates the importance of the interaction is begun.
Three courts with differing prosecutor-public defender relationships were studied. It was hypothesized that in cooperative, friendly, team-oriented courtroom communities, more charges would be dropped; convictions would be for less serious charges than originally imposed; case disposition would take a shorter time; and fewer people would opt for trials than in uncooperative, hostile, adversary-oriented courts. The overall impact was posited to be extreme sentences in uncooperative courts and medium sentences in cooperative courts. The findings generally supported the propositions, but with exceptions. Extreme sentences may be the result of an uncooperative relationship between the prosecutor and public defender. The use of plea bargaining as the chief method of disposing of cases is a reflection of the working relationship between the prosecutor and the public defender. The length of time needed to dispose of cases was much shorter in team-oriented courts, while having many charges dropped was more likely to produce a lighter sentence in a friendly court atmosphere; however, convictions on reduced charges were less frequent in cooperative courts, and their impact was greater in uncooperative courts. Willingness to go to trial, obviously related to the time taken to clear a case, was more common in uncooperative than in cooperative courts. Future research should focus on clearer descriptions and analyses of interacting court relationships. The most accurate explanations of sentencing will probably be a summary of all important interacting patterns. Tabular data from the study are provided, and four notes and seven references are listed. (Author abstract modified)